Connecticut is “in a rut”according to one regional newspaper, while another is reporting on plans by a local company to hire 14,000 workers during the next decade. Bad news and good news, simultaneously. “Ten years ago, it was the undisputed economic king of New England, with average incomes 13 percent higher than Massachusetts and 40 percent above third-ranked New Hampshire,” the Boston Globe's data reporter says of Connecticut. “Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, low- and middle-wage workers in Connecticut consistently took home bigger paychecks than their Massachusetts peers. In the past few years all these economic advantages have disappeared. Unemployment is now far lower in Massachusetts. And Bay State employees get the best wages — whether you look at low-earners, top-earners, or those in the middle.”
The Globe cites recent housing data to underscore the point.
“Of all the cities tracked by the National Association of Realtors, 90 percent have seen their housing prices rise since 2010. That leaves just 17 metropolitan areas still trying to claw back from the recession. Four of those underwater markets are in Connecticut — and they extend to virtually every corner of the state, from Stamford in the southwest to New London in the east and as far north as Hartford.”
“Among the biggest changes in the Massachusetts economy,” the Globe column points out, “has been the explosion of professional, scientific, and technical services — think architects, engineers, software designers, consultants, and scientific researchers. Since 2000, this sector has grown by nearly 50 percent in Massachusetts, which is a key reason the state as a whole has performed so well. In Connecticut, these same fields have expanded by just 6 percent.”
Globe reporter Evan Horowitz, who writes the paper’s Quick Study column using data to discuss policy, notes that “without a hub like Boston, Connecticut can’t simply pull pages from the Massachusetts playbook.” He suggests that “a Trump-fueled surge in corporate profits and stock valuations could provide a much-needed boost to the state’s fortunes. But if there’s one lesson of recent years, it’s that counting on Wall Street excess to compensate for other economic ills is a dangerous strategy; bubbles burst, recessions happen, and in the absence of a long-term economic strategy, Connecticut could once again find itself floundering.”
A brighter ray of potential economic sunshine is reported by the Day of New London, outlining plans by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton for a massive decade-long hiring spree resulting from an increase in submarine orders by the U.S. Navy, spurred by “strong Congressional support.”
“The company will hire 14,000 new employees over the next 13 years,” the Day reports. “Those employees will fill new positions and those being vacated by retirees and those who leave for other reasons. The burst in new hires will take EB from its workforce of 14,500 today to 18,000 in 2030. This year alone, the company hired 1,600 new full-time employees. Another 800 received conditional job offers and are in the process of applying for a security clearance or awaiting that clearance.”
Reporter Julia Bergman indicates that “six different submarines are currently under construction there. Another is in for its ‘50,000 mile checkup.’ And an eighth is undergoing a major overhaul.”
The work – and the jobs – extend beyond EB.
“While the engineering workforce has neared its peak, EB will continue to hire a larger number of shipyard personnel such as welders, machinists, and electricians,” the Day reports. “About 40 percent of this year’s new hires were tradespeople.” Training programs and local colleges are straining to meet the demand, the newspaper reports.
Underscoring the importance of healthcare to Connecticut’s economy, there is a new number one employer (by number of employees) in the state, according to published reports. A year ago, United Technologies was the largest employer in Connecticut, according to 24/7 Wall Street. After selling its helicopter division, Sikorsky, UTC’s employee headcount dropped from around 24,500 to an estimated 16,000. With 20,396 total employees, Yale New Haven Health is now the largest employer in Connecticut, the publication notes. Yale New Haven Health includes Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Yale New Haven Hospital, Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven and Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital. The Hartford Business Journal last year ranked Hartford Healthcare, with 18,000 employees, just behind Yale New Haven Health. Hartford Healthcare acute care facilities include Backus Hospital, Hartford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center and Windham Hospital.