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State loses 266,000 jobs in April; region drops 34,000

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The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that more than a quarter of a million residents, or almost 16% of the entire Connecticut labor force, lost their jobs in April because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Norwich-New London area was hardest hit in the state on a percentage basis, losing more than 34,000 jobs — more than a quarter of its workforce.

"What remains to be seen is how many of these jobs were suspended and will return when public safety permits and how many were permanently lost," Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research at the state labor department, said in a news release.

Condon noted that all industries in the state saw major declines, led by leisure and hospitality, retail trade and education and health services. The historic net state job losses in April of 266,300, according to preliminary statistics, included the loss of 72,500 positions in leisure and hospitality, 50,400 in trade, transportation and utilities, and 45,200 in education and health.

"Connecticut and the nation saw a rapid and unprecedented level of job loss in April due to the pandemic," Condon said.

The Norwich-New London-Westerly labor market, badly affected by the closure of Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, two of the world's largest casinos, lost 26.7% of its workforce in the month. By comparison, Hartford lost 12.9%; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, 17.6%; Danbury, 17.3%; New Haven, 14.3%, and Waterbury, 14.7%.

The Office of Research said official statistics underestimated the state's unemployment rate, which it pegged at about 17.5% between mid-March and mid-April. This compared with a federal jobless rate in April of 14.7%.

Joe Brennan, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, took the opportunity after job-loss figures were announced to press the case for "a new way of thinking" in a state that needs a "dramatic reshaping" of the relationship between lawmakers and the business community, he said in a release.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering, and the best remedy we have is to find ways to get them back to work as quickly and as safely as possible," Brennan said. "Let's rebuild better and faster than other states. Let's get people back working by building a strong, vibrant private sector."

Brennan noted that the 266,300 jobs lost last month, combined with an additional 20,700 that fell away in March according to updated figures, had now more than doubled the state's total job losses during the Great Recession of 2008-10.

"If we don't change our thinking and adopt new approaches, I fear many of these jobs may never return," he said.

l.howard@theday.com

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