More to be done to keep CT economy growing

Approaching Election Day means all eyes are on the monthly jobs reports. While everyone has their own personal experiences, the experts try to summarize how the economy as a whole is faring, which may help voters choose.

With Labor Day in the past and the campaign in earnest, Connecticut’s latest jobs report likely has good feelings about incumbents. But more needs to be done to ensure the positive news continues.

Connecticut’s unemployment rate rose to 4.1 percent in August, which in itself seems like bad news. But the unemployment rate is only part of the picture, as it only includes people of working age who are actively seeking employment. Those who left the labor market altogether are not counted.

So, as the job market improves and more people who were previously on the sidelines decide to actively seek again, the pool widens and the unemployment rate responds accordingly. That doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for the economy.

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That seems to be what’s happening in Connecticut. The state added about 2,900 jobs in August and revised its July figure to show an increase of 8,700 jobs. Employers are actively seeking and hiring, and job seekers can afford to be selective.

At the same time, unemployment claims in the state have fallen. Fewer people depend on aid because there are many jobs, which is an enviable position for the state.

It still goes on. Business leaders have been saying for years that there aren’t enough people in the state to fill all of our vacancies, and that even if every unemployed person in Connecticut got a vacancy, there will still be unfilled positions. We need more people, so the country’s business lobby has made it its mission to boost our anemic population growth in recent years.

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This can happen in different ways. We could become more hospitable to people from other parts of the country. We could encourage recent grads to stay in Connecticut because many thousands are now heading to places like New York and Boston. Or we could do more to welcome immigrants from other countries. All would be beneficial, and there’s an argument that Connecticut should do a better job on all three.

In any case, the state must improve its welcoming culture. It’s expensive to live here, mainly driven by the cost of housing. Jobs tend to pay well compared to the rest of the country, but the gap between what people earn, especially when starting out, and the cost of living in Connecticut can be significant.

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Still, good news is welcome wherever we can find it. Despite the economic recovery at the end of the pandemic, there has been much talk of a looming recession, in large part due to efforts to contain inflation.

That can still happen. Costs continue to rise in many industries.

But we have to find a balance. Yes, inflation is a problem, but a recession is worse. A situation where people can find work and choose their own path is what we should aim for.

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