With unemployment insurance claims at an all-time low, Lamont confident in CT economy

As Governor Ned Lamont expressed confidence Friday in Connecticut’s economic outlook with the COVID-19 pandemic approaching two years, the US Department of Labor reported that the state’s unemployment benefit slates were at most low for the first week of any calendar year since 1988.

Lamont gave the keynote address Friday morning at an economic summit hosted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. With COVID-19 infection rates still high, AABC hosted the event virtually.

Acknowledging the current challenges of the pandemic, the governor gave an otherwise upbeat outlook for the state’s budget and economy as he prepares for a re-election bid, along with potential rivals including Republican Bob Stefanowski, whom Lamont beat in 2018.

Lamont said he will try to find ways to reduce property taxes for residents during the Connecticut General Assembly session that begins in February. He made no new proposals on how to get more people back into the labor market, but promised to continue to build on existing initiatives such as job training and apprenticeships.

“A lot of it is the confidence in people getting back to work — we’ve been hit pretty hard,” Lamont said Friday. “We have a lot of investment going on, starting with transportation infrastructure, environmental infrastructure – I think that’s going to be tens of thousands of jobs.”

Connecticut has seen a steeper drop in the rate of “participation” of people who are actively considering working than many states nationwide, according to Ezra Greenberg, a McKinsey & Co. partner who spoke Friday at the the CBIA conference.

“People are reassessing their work priorities,” Greenberg said Friday. “They’ve shown, with what they’ve been through during the pandemic, that there are other ways to get their families across.”

While federal aid programs have provided a cash cushion for some families that will dissipate over the coming year, Greenberg added, the pandemic has crystallized for some workers a desire to leave existing careers for better ones. opportunities.

After an earlier-than-usual post-Christmas spike in initial jobless claims, filings declined in Connecticut. Employers continue to dangle bonuses to boost their hiring prospects, especially warehousing and freight companies that are struggling to fill orders.

Nearly 5,500 Connecticut workers filed initial claims for unemployment assistance last week, according to the US Department of Labor, about 2,400 fewer than the first week of January.

With 32,600 people filing weekly benefit claims in early January, Connecticut has about 15,000 fewer unemployed workers than two years ago when the pandemic hit the United States.

Since 1988, the state had not started a year with unemployment rolls at an equivalent level. DOL had its lowest weekly tally for Connecticut the previous year, when 13,459 people filed for benefits in mid-October 1987.

While many policymakers are unsure how to boost logistics employment to standardize product delivery to stores and businesses, companies continue to struggle to fill jobs at higher pay scales.

On Friday, Indeed’s online jobs site posted more than 27,000 Connecticut job openings above $75,000 a year, near the state’s median household income as calculated by the US Census Bureau.

Only about 4,000 Connecticut residents receive assistance after leaving jobs that paid at least $75,000 a year, according to a running count from the Connecticut Department of Labor.

While the Unemployment Assistance tally doesn’t capture everyone out of work in Connecticut — an unknown number of workers are taking breaks for various reasons due to the pandemic or other factors — job boards do. not seize the full list of opportunities either.

On its careers page Friday morning, General Dynamics subsidiary Electric Boat listed nearly 1,000 openings Friday at its Groton shipyard and New London engineering office. This was several multiples more than the number captured by Indeed, due to Electric Boat’s practice of detailing on its own website the number of people it is looking for for each job description – in some cases dozens. for positions such as machinists or pipe fitters.

Speaking to the CBIA audience on Friday, Electric Boat President Kevin Graney said the shipyard had 11 or 12 submarines in various stages of completion in Groton and an auxiliary yard in Rhode Island at any one time. He said about a quarter of Electric Boat’s business today is centered on the new Columbia class of ballistic missile submarines that will replace the US Navy’s existing Ohio-class fleet.

Graney said 86% of Electric Boat workers had been vaccinated against COVID-19, adding that the company had avoided instituting a mandate for fear that Electric Boat had lost “a significant part” of its workforce. Still, he said Electric Boat has been hit hard by the omicron variant of COVID-19, both in offices and on production lines.

“We’re in the midst of a once-in-a-generation expansion — and frankly, it may be the biggest in our history,” Graney said Friday. “Going forward, hiring is our biggest problem.”

CBIA CEO Chris DiPentima said Connecticut was ‘flooded with money’ and warned policymakers against increasing additional spending in the state budget, while calling for tax relief for individuals and businesses.

“We need to address the labor challenges that have been simmering for years due to low population growth,” DiPentima said. “If we don’t increase the population, we don’t increase the workforce.”

Includes earlier reports by editor Julia Bergman.

[email protected]; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

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