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Rising Manufacturing Jobs A Glimmer In Modest 2017 Jobs Gains

After years of state action to promote manufacturing jobs and rising demand for aerospace products made in Connecticut, the number of manufacturing jobs in the state increased in 2017 for the first time in seven years, the state Department of Labor reported Monday.

Connecticut employers added 6,000 jobs in December, bringing job growth for the year to a modest 7,700, up by a fraction of a percent.

Manufacturing jobs, numbering 160,300 last year, were a bright spot. The industry’s 2017 gains, up 4,100, or 2.5 percent, were a first for Connecticut since 2010.

The state unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.6 percent in December, half a percent higher than the U.S. jobless rate.

The jobs increases reversed a two-month slide when employers cut 3,500 jobs in November and 6,200 in October. However, the job loss of 3,500 in November was revised upward, to a loss of 1,800.

“December job growth ended the year on a better note than in previous months,” said Andy Condon, the Labor Department’s research director.

The data show that Connecticut’s 2017 jobs increase was an improvement over the 5,000 average annual growth in 2016, he said.

Condon cautioned that 2017 jobs numbers could be revised by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Peter Gioia, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s economist, called the jobs report the “first good news we’ve gotten in a long while.”

“If those numbers hold up when the final report comes out in March, it will be a stark change from where we ended up in 2016, losing 200 jobs,” he said.

Connecticut has recovered 76.4 percent of the 119,100 seasonally adjusted jobs lost in the Great Recession. The state’s private sector has recovered 96.6 percent of jobs lost, while government has contracted due to falling revenue.

Economist Don Klepper-Smith said Connecticut’s economy is “basically moving sideways.”

The U.S. and many states have gained back all lost jobs while also creating new employment.

Professional and business services led growth, with 2,700 net new jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities boosted jobs by 2,600 and manufacturing ended the year with a gain of 2,000 jobs in December.

The construction and mining industry shed 1,000 jobs, financial activities lost 800 positions and 300 jobs were lost in the information industry.

Just last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state Manufacturing Innovation Fund provided companies with about $18 million last year, nearly double the amount in 2016. It’s credited with creating 2,585 jobs, up from 1,911 in 2016.

United Technologies Corp. has a backlog of orders for its next-generation jet engine manufactured in Middletown, Sikorsky is committed to building the military’s new heavy lift helicopter in Stratford and Electric Boat in Groton is benefiting from a shift in military strategy relying more on submarines and surface ships.

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