CT residents on unemployment drops to early pandemic level

Connecticut saw its biggest drop in residents on unemployment since the early weeks of the COVID pandemic, as the state has now begun requiring beneficiaries to prove they are searching for work weekly and as employers stepped up hiring nationally.

Some 13,600 people came off unemployment benefits the second week of July, the state Department of Labor reported, a 10 percent decline. While the U.S. Department of Labor reported no decline in the number of people filing initial claims, it likewise recorded a large drop in mid-July in continuing claims under pandemic benefits programs.

U.S. employers added 943,000 jobs in July, according to DOL estimates released Friday based on surveys. The nation’s official unemployment rate receded by half a point to 5.4 percent, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic, but still above the jobless rate in spring 2015.

Congress has yet to signal any plan to push back further a scheduled expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits on Sept. 6 that has boosted compensation by an extra $300 a week.

That could spur more people to seek regular work in the coming weeks. Another prod is coming from the state, after the Connecticut Department of Labor reinstated last month a requirement that people log weekly job search activities in order to continue receiving benefits.

In the past several weeks, a number of large employers nationally have said they are boosting pay to fill available jobs as well as keep their existing workers from jumping ship for better-paying opportunities in their fields, or switching careers. Connecticut’s minimum wage rose a dollar this month to $13 an hour, on a progression toward a $15 minimum wage in two years.

“[Employers] are paying a little more across the board,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, speaking this week in Groton to promote new rules in Connecticut that allow military spouses to get swift approval of existing professional certifications. “Middle-class families saw a wage boost — most of that related to the [employment] market, a little bit related to the minimum wage.”

The Connecticut Department of Labor is promoting a Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce job fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday at the Trumbull Marriott Shelton at 180 Hawley Lane in Trumbull.

More than 50 employers have committed to attending — from Amazon, which listed about 80 openings in Connecticut as of early August, to the Trumbull Marriott, which is looking for front desk attendants, an on-site repairman and an accountant among other posts. Face masks are required for entry, with information online.

“We know there are jobs — and we know there are people looking for jobs,” said Bill Purcell, CEO of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce which has a Shelton office. “The question, of course, is the impact of the federal unemployment [benefits], concern about safety and child care and other issues. We know it’s not as simple as before.”

Symbridge is another local company on a hiring push, searching out information technology workers for its Greenwich office where it is readying an online exchange for digital assets including major cyber currencies.

“It’s surprising for me coming out of the pandemic — I would have thought there would be a lot more people on the market,” said CEO Michael McGuire, during a July interview. “But it’s not like Connecticut is a challenge and New York is not — I think it’s a nationwide challenge at this point.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman