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Conn. unemployment rate jumps to 9 percent

Dave Collins, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut officials on Thursday questioned new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show the state's unemployment rate jumped half a percentage point to 9 percent from July to August, the largest monthly percentage point increase since 1976.

The state Department of Labor announced that the federal agency's preliminary monthly employment statistics show the state lost a net 6,800 jobs during the monthlong period.

The data also showed the state's civilian labor force was about 1.9 million in August, down 9,400 from July. Officials said the 0.3 percent decrease was a record monthly drop in the labor force and implied that nearly 17,000 Connecticut workers who were employed in June no longer had jobs in August.

The national unemployment rate in August was 8.1 percent.

"We can find no corroborating evidence that the record losses in employment and increases in unemployment ... are occurring at this magnitude," said Andy Condon, the director of the state Labor Department's research office.

Condon said other economic indicators, including unemployment insurance claims, layoff events and reports of business expansions and contractions, "do not support the sudden and steep decline" shown by the federal data. He said state officials are working with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to review the data.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement that he also was skeptical of the federal labor data. He said there was a weekly average of 4,779 unemployment benefit filings in August, down slightly from the 4,802 average weekly filings in July. He also said tax withholdings are up 3.6 percent.

"Those two trends are the opposite of what you would expect to see if the state was losing jobs at the rate suggested in this report," Malloy said.

Bureau of Labor Statistics spokeswoman Stacey Standish said agency officials would not be able to comment on the data until after it is officially released on Friday morning. The statistics are based on the federal agency's surveys of businesses and households.

According to the new federal data, the leisure and hospitality sector in Connecticut had the largest job loss — 3,100 positions or 2.2 percent — from July to August. State labor officials say figures from the sector can change rapidly as seasonal jobs end or begin. The accommodation and food services sector lost 2,100 jobs.

Job gainers included education and health services, which added 500 jobs, and information, which added 400 jobs.

Of the nearly 17,000 Connecticut workers who were employed in July but not in August, 55 percent of them left the labor force, the federal data showed. The state Labor Department said those statistics implied "a very unusual pattern."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' household survey showed that 171,000 people in Connecticut were unemployed in August, up 7,600 from July.