Employment surge in May pushes state jobless rate to new low

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STAMFORD — Gov. Dan Malloy is back from his trip to Europe and is talking about jobs here in Connecticut.

On Thursday, Malloy toured the Vineyard Vines headquarters, which employs more than 200.

“It is a marvelous success story the likes of which Connecticut has had throughout its history and we should be proud of that,” Malloy said of the clothing company, which began in Connecticut.

Just hours before his tour, new numbers were released showing job growth statewide.

The state Department of Labor says Connecticut employers added 6,400 jobs in May, helping to push the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, the lowest level in nearly seven years.

Connecticut’s unemployment rate is down by six-tenths of a percentage point in the past year. It’s the lowest since it was 5.9 percent in August 2008. The U.S. unemployment rate in May was 5.5 percent.

Unemployment in Connecticut peaked at 9.2 percent from October 2010 to February 2011.

But despite the boisterous economic news, Republican lawmakers say job growth can’t rectify the damage the state budget will do to state businesses if the governor signs it.

State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and state Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, released the following statement in response to the employment report:

We wish a slight uptick in job numbers was enough to restore business confidence in our state. Unfortunately, these numbers cannot rectify the damage that has been done as a result of the budget negotiated by the governor and legislative Democrats. We cannot lose sight of the realities that surround us today. Hospitals are cutting jobs across the state, large employers are considering moves out of state, and other states are courting away our businesses and our jobs. This report does not reflect the harmful implications of what this budget will do to our businesses. If we hope to change course, and attain sustainable job growth, we need dramatic action to show our employers that we hear them. We need to rethink this budget.

One of the employers that is making cuts in response to the budget is Hartford Healthcare. On Wednesday, the network announced it will lay off more than 400 employees.

However, Malloy disregards this claim, saying that the hospitals should take some share in the blame for the layoffs due to excessive spending.

“What we’re not able to do is simply say we can pay for everything you want and is on your list. If you look at the growth and expenditures at hospitals, I think most people know that they’ve been pretty high,” Malloy said.

The Legislature will return for a special session some time later this month, and the governor said he plans to work with the lawmakers to make changes to the budget.

Former lawmaker and current senior vice president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Brian Flaherty, says one thing that needs to be worked on at the special session negotiations is jobs.

“We want to be talking about moving Connecticut up and improving and being on the upswing but there is a cause and effect of what happens at the capitol to what happens on main street and with these jobs,” Flaherty said.