When the latest jobs figures came out earlier this month, there was good news: Connecticut's unemployment rate in January declined for the sixth consecutive month and the number of jobs created grew by 7,100.
Besides those headline-grabbing figures, there were a few others to note from the monthly state Department of Labor report, including the fact that Connecticut's "Great Recession" didn't eliminate quite as many jobs as first forecast. Economists and analysts had said that the state's recession had robbed 119,200 jobs from the state's economy. Newly revised figures say the recession's toll - still startling - was 117,500 jobs. In addition, Connecticut's recession, which had been quoted as starting in March 2008 - the "peak" of employment - and lasting through January 2010 - the "trough" of employment - was actually a month longer in duration.
Economists and labor-market experts now say our Great Recession began in March 2008 and lasted into February 2010. Not a great change, I'll agree, but an indication of how long and stinging this recession has been on this state's $211 billion economy.
And while Connecticut is starting off 2012 with a lower jobless rate - 8 percent - and job creation in excess of 7,000, revised figures from the state labor department show that 2011 job growth wasn't quite as robust as first thought. It turns out that Connecticut created 7,800 news jobs from December 2010 to December 2011 - not the 9,000 new jobs first estimated.
Don Klepper-Smith, the chief economist and director of research for the New Haven-based DataCore Partners LLC, faithfully follows the monthly jobs report issued by the labor department and authors his own month-by-month assessment of the jobs figures and overall economy.
While the slightly more anemic job growth in 2011 was troubling, Klepper-Smith offers this bottom-line assessment: "The January data, combined with the overall data revisions, was essentially in line with my expectations of what I thought we would see," he says in his latest analysis of Connecticut's employment scene. "A good way to start off the year," he adds, "and a great starting point for building further economic momentum."
That momentum isn't as readily apparent here in eastern Connecticut. Despite a rather upbeat report for the employment situation across Connecticut during January, our local labor market - covering the New London and Norwich area - showed troubling job losses. From January 2011 to January 2012, our local labor markets lost 2,400 jobs. By contrast, the Hartford area labor market grew 5,100 jobs during that yearlong period, New Haven added nearly 2,000 jobs and the Danbury area added 1,500 jobs.
Of Connecticut's six major labor markets, only the Stamford and Bridgeport area and the New London and Norwich areas showed actual job losses.
So we still have a ways to go with job creation in southeastern Connecticut, which has been buffeted by downsizings at the region's two mega-casinos, continued contraction at Pfizer Inc., and some softening among smaller employers.
Nonetheless, Klepper-Smith sees progress on a statewide basis, saying that his proprietary Farmington Bank Business Barometer shows the Connecticut economy is continuing "on a path of modest expansion," but we're still lagging our prior economic recoveries.
Anthony Cronin is The Day's business editor.