Job losses in southeastern Connecticut mounted last month, with preliminary figures showing the region severely lagging the rest of the state.
Connecticut lost 4,100 jobs between March and April, according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Labor, with 1,200 of the losses coming from the Norwich-New London area. Only the much-larger Bridgeport area lost more jobs in the period, a total of 1,400.
The state, which shed thousands of jobs toward the end of last year, has gained 5,300 positions so far this year but still is falling 2,300 jobs short of where its employment numbers stood in April 2011. The Norwich-New London area, which includes Westerly, has lost 5,500 jobs — or 4.2 percent of its workforce — in the past year.
"It's taken so long to shake these large layoffs," John Beauregard, executive director of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, said.
Beauregard referred to the 1,100 layoffs announced last year at Pfizer Inc., most of which were implemented over the past 12 months. Other downsizings at major employers have occurred at Electric Boat and the region's two casinos, and each has a multiplier effect, he said.
Beauregard said the region will begin to bounce back only when confidence in southeastern Connecticut's economic future can be restored.
"I think once people start feeling better about their own situation — or perhaps their spouse's situation — they will start purchasing again," he said.
Despite a drop in employment, the state's unemployment rate held firm at 7.7 percent last month. That's down from 9 percent during April of last year.
"Despite variability in growth from month to month, we still appear to be on a path of positive, albeit modest job growth," the labor department report said.
January and February averaged employment increases of 5,700 over the same months in 2011, according to the labor department report. The report also noted that April 2011 employment figures showed an atypical gain of 9,400, which ultimately was not sustained but which made this April's job numbers look weak in comparison.
"Unusual seasonal patterns this past winter into spring make these numbers difficult to interpret," said Andy Condon, director of the labor department's Office of Research, in a statement.
"Some of the observed decline may be a statistical seasonal adjustment reversal from the unusual boost we received due to an enhanced warm winter in January ... and February," the labor department report said.
The report added that winter weather patterns, with an unusually snowy 2011 and an unseasonably warm 2012, made year-over-year comparisons of monthly employment figures difficult.
"The 'normal' upticks seen in the spring never fully materialized, in part because job levels in key sectors were already high due to a mild winter."
Gaining jobs in April were professional, scientific and technical services (600); trade, transportation and utilities (500); financial activities (300); and information (100).
Showing negative results were construction (2,300); government (1,300); leisure and hospitality (1,200); education and health services (600); manufacturing (400); and other services (100).