A recently released report from the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis caused much political commentary when it suggested that the state's unemployment rate was higher than the 7.6 percent reported by the Connecticut Department of Labor.
The report claimed that the unemployment rate was lower, at least in part, because 65,000 working-age adults had temporarily stopped looking for work, which masks the real number of people out of jobs. The report's authors say that, if the number of people looking for work returned to the same level as in 2010, the unemployment rate would be 10.7 percent.
Some, particularly political opponents of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, used this report to suggest that the unemployment numbers are being manipulated by state officials to look good. Such claims are an insult to the integrity of the state Labor Department and our team of economists who strive to provide the most accurate information possible.
The simple fact is the Department of Labor does not produce the unemployment numbers. They come directly from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and we are required to report them exactly as they are produced. This same method is used in all 50 states.
The 10.7 percent unemployment rate mentioned by the center's report and promulgated by others is not based in reality, but rather a hypothetical scenario based on the size of the labor force from three years ago.
The size of Connecticut's labor force changes constantly for a number of demographic and economic reasons. Many of these reasons bear no relation to the health of the state's economy. In 1998, for instance, the state grew more than 33,000 private sector jobs and had an unemployment rate of 3.3 percent. But in that same year, we saw a contraction in the labor force of nearly 1 percent.
To argue that the "real" unemployment rate should be based on labor force conditions of three years ago is absurd and does not help shed light on today's real labor market challenges. Worse, propagating untruths like this serves only to dampen what should be a time for hope for many residents.
Connecticut citizens know the unemployment rate is falling and are not fooled by these games. Neither the employers' survey nor the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages corroborate declining job levels and labor force in Connecticut.
The Current Employment Statistics program surveys more than 6,500 business establishments in Connecticut to develop estimates of job levels and growth by industry. That survey indicates the state has grown 41,700 private sector jobs from Jan. 1, 2011, through November 2013.
The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages is an actual count of all payroll employment by businesses covered by unemployment insurance in Connecticut. The census of employment and wages program confirms job growth equal to or exceeding what the Current Employment Statistics program survey estimates.
Our statistical programs are conducted under contract to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the estimates for both our unemployment and payroll job estimates. This is true for Connecticut and all other states. There is nothing that the state Department of Labor could manipulate. To imply otherwise is false and wrongfully damaging to the credibility of our statistical programs.
Sharon M. Palmer is commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun