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CT Dept. Of Labor: Unemployment Rate 8.1%, Private Sector Employment Up

Annual Benchmarked Numbers Released for 2020

(Wethersfield, CT) – Today, Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) Commissioner Kurt Westby announced that the state’s January unemployment rate was 8.1%, down 0.1% from December 2020. Additionally, the annual benchmarked unemployment numbers show that the unemployment rate during the pandemic was slightly higher than previously estimated.  The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has revised the methodology for estimating state unemployment rates.

Commissioner Westby said, “There’s no doubt that the pandemic was tough on the economy and the workforce; we saw that throughout 2020 with historic unemployment insurance filing levels and large employment declines in many industries. This information also reveals a light on the horizon—the labor market is well-positioned to recover once the vaccine is widely distributed.”

Benchmarked employment numbers, released annually in March, align the BLS estimated numbers with actual employer reports.

CTDOL Acting Director of Research Patrick Flaherty said, “Even with a high unemployment rate, job posting data shows that at the same time thousands of employers are trying to hire. There is pent-up demand across market sectors—once people are vaccinated and feel safe, they will go out, go back to restaurants and shops, and go back to work. We believe there will be strong economic growth as a result.”

Highlights from the January jobs report:

  • Private sector jobs up slightly
  • Trade (including retail); transportation and utilities; education and health services; and other services saw increases, seven other industry
    super sectors declined
  • Retail has gained 82% of jobs it lost during the pandemic

A separate report of job postings shows 4,000 new job postings each week in Connecticut.

CTDOL economist Patrick Flaherty video segments on the reports:

#DOLDaily January 2021 Labor Report Important Takeaway

#DOLDaily January 2021 Labor Report Additional Takeaways

Payroll jobs post slight January 2021 decline (-100): unemployment rate at 8.1% on newly benchmarked data                                                                             

WETHERSFIELD, March 12, 2021 – Connecticut payroll employment was essentially unchanged in January 2021, dropping just 100 jobs (‑0.01%) after a revised 4,600 (‑0.3%) decrease in December 2020.  This is the third monthly job loss after six consecutive seasonally adjusted monthly jobs gains.  Statewide employment is now 127,300 (-7.5%) positions lower than a year ago at 1,570,700 jobs.  Connecticut has now recovered 166,800 nonfarm jobs (57.0%) of the 292,400 jobs lost in March and April 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdown.  These nonfarm industry employment estimates are from the business establishment survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program.  This data is being released under the newly implemented benchmark.  January data are preliminary.

“Connecticut employment sprinted out of the lockdown in the middle of 2020, but growth stalled as infection rates rose at the end of the year” said Patrick Flaherty, Acting Director of the Office of Research at the Connecticut Department of Labor.  “Private sector employment increased in January led by retail trade, education, and other services.  The unemployment rate is now 3.3% points below the peak reached in the late spring of 2020.”

Private sector employment increased by 400 positions (0.03%) to 1,350,100 in January 2021 and is now down by 111,700 (-7.6%) jobs since January 2020.  The government supersector declined 500 jobs (‑0.2%) to a level of 220,600 and is now lower by 15,600 jobs (-6.6%) over the year.  The government supersector includes all federal, state and local employment, including public education and Native American casino employment located on tribal reservation land.

Three of the ten major industry supersectors had employment gains in January 2021.

Increasing Sectors

Industry Sector

Amount of Increase

Percent Change

January 2021 Employment

Trade, Transportation, & Utilities




Education and Health Services




Other Services




Seven industry supersectors had January 2021 declines.

Declining Sectors

Industry Sector

Amount of Decrease

Percent Change

January 2021 Employment





Construction and Mining




Professional & Business Services








Leisure & Hospitality




Financial Activities








Connecticut Labor Market Areas (LMAs): Just two of the six Connecticut LMAs, seasonally adjusted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), indicated employment gains in January 2021, while four regional LMAs declined.  The Waterbury LMA (0.5%, 64,300) and the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk LMA (0.1%, 370,700) both were higher by 300 positions in January 2021.  The New Haven LMA (-0.3%, 281,700) lost 900 jobs, while the Hartford LMA (-0.1%, 548,700) decreased 400 positions.  The Danbury LMA (-0.4%, 70,700) and the Norwich–New London–Westerly LMA (-0.3%, 114,400) each shed 300 positions.

Note:  The six major Connecticut LMAs are estimated independently from the statewide data by the BLS and cover more than 90% of the nonfarm employment in the state. Thus, estimates will not fully sum to the statewide total. 

Hours and Earnings: The private sector workweek, not seasonally adjusted, averaged 34.2 hours in January 2021, up eight-tenths of an hour from January 2020 (2.4%).  Average hourly earnings at $34.23, not seasonally adjusted, were up $0.74 (2.2%) from the January 2020 estimate ($33.49).  Average private sector weekly paychecks totaled $1,170.67, up $52.10 from a year ago (4.7%).  The 12-month percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U, U.S. City Average, not seasonally adjusted) in January 2021 was 1.4%.  Current all-employee private sector hours and earnings estimates can be volatile due to fluctuating sample responses.

Labor Force Data (residential household survey)

The official January 2021 unemployment rate for Connecticut was estimated by the BLS Local Area Unemployment Statistics program (LAUS) to be 8.1% (seasonally adjusted), lower by 0.1 percentage point from the December 2020 level of 8.2%.  The Connecticut unemployment rate was 3.7% in January 2020.  The US jobless rate in January 2021 was 6.3%, down 0.4 percentage points from December’s rate (6.7%).  The US rate was 3.5% a year ago. 

Data users must be cautious about trying to compare or reconcile UI claims data with the official unemployment figures derived from the household survey.  For additional insight into the Connecticut labor market during the COVID-19 pandemic please see the analysis linked here:  Please note that there are conceptual, coverage, and scope differences between the two data sources.

Unemployment claims for first-time filers in Connecticut were an average of 8,040 per week in January 2021, up 3,547 from the December 2020 (78.9%, 4,493) level and higher by 4,961 claims (161.1%) from the average weekly level of 3,079 in January 2020.

The nonfarm employment estimate, derived from a survey of businesses, is a measure of jobs in the state; the unemployment rate and labor force estimates are based on a household survey, and measure the work status of people who live in Connecticut.  Overall, as the national and state economies recover, volatility in monthly numbers can be expected. Job and employment estimates are best understood in the context of their movement over several months rather than observed changes in a single month’s value.

Notes on Labor Data – Connecticut Labor Statistics Revisions, 2020 Benchmark Announcement

2020 Benchmark Revisions to Connecticut’s Establishment Survey Data
(Total Nonfarm Employment Series – CES - Current Employment Statistics)

The establishment payroll survey data released today have been benchmarked to reflect more comprehensive counts of nonfarm payroll jobs in the state.  The process replaces the original monthly sample estimates with census job counts derived from unemployment insurance (UI) tax records through March 2020 (considered the official benchmark month).  Preliminary second and third quarter UI tax records also replace the sample estimates through September 2020.  The survey data are then re-estimated from October 2020 to December 2020 with more complete random samples from the newly benchmarked September 2020 levels.  Seasonally adjusted data from January 2019 forward are also subject to revision due to the changing concurrent seasonal factors.  Additionally, data for many industry employment series prior to 2020 (some going back to 1990), both seasonally and not seasonally adjusted, may incorporate some revisions and data reconstruction due to changes in scope of industry coverage and improved information. 

This year, a significant inclusion of employment scope/coverage by CES in NAICS 62 (Health Care and Social Assistance – mainly home health aides) came from NAICS 814 (domestic household employment) which traditionally was not covered by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program and nonfarm industry statistics.  This employment was measured at about 10,075 and was added to December 2019 levels and then tracked back at the UI account level to 1990.  This is an industry with high turnover and movement.  Consequently, Connecticut total nonfarm employment levels have been adjusted back to January 1990 reflecting this industry inclusion.  Please update your historical data after this release with the revised data from our website.

Connecticut’s total nonfarm employment level for March 2020 (the official benchmark month) was revised upward by 5,900 from the initially published estimate of 1,677,400 to 1,683,300, or 0.3% seasonally adjusted.  Going forward, the monthly benchmark revision changes to Connecticut’s December 2020 seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment monthly levels were revised down by 20,000, from 1,590,800 to 1,570,800. The COVID-19 Lockdown in March-April (a 292,400 seasonally adjusted job decline) was estimated to be a 291,300 decline at the time but some of the subsequent job recovery from June 2020 on to December 2020 was over-estimated.  The sample seemed to perform adequately under a very volatile situation.

Connecticut Payroll jobs

                     Connecticut Nonfarm Employment Benchmark Revisions - 2020 Seasonally Adjusted (000’s, blue is newly revised data)

In the spring of 2020, BLS encountered pandemic-related challenges enrolling new businesses to participate in the CES survey, which required adjustments to the timing of quarterly sample rotation. In doing so, there was an unintended data processing issue beginning in July 2020 in which data from some businesses that were scheduled to be dropped from the sample were used in estimates. BLS is taking steps to resolve this issue immediately and will research the impact on CES employment, hours, and earnings.

(See for more information on the CES sample and quarterly rotation.)

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) 2020 Annual Processing

This year, the whole history of statewide Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) were revised from 1976 to 2020 using a new improved “Gen5” model-based estimation.  Detailed information describing this change is available at  On an annual average basis, the revised Connecticut unemployment rate rose from 3.6% in 2019 to 7.9% in 2020, highest since 2013 when it was 8.0%. 

Connecticut Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate

All revised nonfarm employment and unemployment data for Connecticut should be available soon on Connecticut’s Department of Labor’s website under Labor Market Information

Next Connecticut Labor Situation release: Thursday, March 25, 2021 
(preliminary February 2021)


Media Contact:
CTDOL Communications Unit
200 Folly Brook Boulevard, Wethersfield, CT 06109-1114
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