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Connecticut Economic Digest: July 2003 issue
Profiles of the Connecticut Workforce | Occupation Profile: Computer Support Specialists | Housing Update

Profiles of the Connecticut Workforce
By Jungmin Charles Joo, Research Analyst, DOL

Every year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a great deal of detailed data on the characteristics of Connecticut's workforce in the publication called Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment, which is based on annual average data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Below are some of the findings for 2001 (2002 data are not yet available), along with some comparisons from 1986 and 1996. For the profiles of the workforce in 1986 and 1996, see the August 1998 issue of the Digest at http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/lmi/misc/ctdigest.htm.

Connecticut Workforce

In 2001, 67.5 percent of Connecticut residents, 16 years and older, participated in the labor force. This was higher than the nation's 66.9 percent, but lower than New England's 68.2 percent. In fact, while both the U.S. and New England saw increases in their labor force participation rates since both 1986 and 1996, Connecticut's rates have declined over both periods.

The largest portion of Connecticut's workforce in 2001 was employed in the professional specialty occupational group, making up nearly 20 percent of all workers. In fact, this group has experienced steady growth in its job share from 1986. Other occupational groups with increases in employment share since 1986 were sales and technicians and related support. Those with a declining trend in employment share included administrative support (including clerical); machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors; and handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers. This continues to support the notion that today's economy is moving toward hiring more educated and highly skilled workers, while persons with less education and skill are facing more limited job prospects.

The data further confirm that Connecticut workers shifted from manufacturing jobs to service jobs in the past 15 years, as the percentage of workers in manufacturing declined from 26.2 percent in 1986 to 14.8 percent in 2001. The services industries now employ nearly one of every three workers (29.4 percent in 2001), and almost one out of five are employed in wholesale and retail trade (17.5 percent).

Women in the Workforce

Women's labor force participation rate declined slightly to 61.8 percent in 2001 from 62.5 percent in 1996, mainly due to the recession, but is still above the 60.8 percent recorded in 1986. By contrast, men's participation rate decreased further from 80.0 percent in 1986 to 73.7 percent in 2001. This is, in part, from the increasing number of older workers retiring because of the availability of Social Security to men 62 years of age.

In 2001, 28.8 percent of working females worked part time, while this was the case for only 11.0 percent of men - both their shares fell slightly from 1996 levels. More than a third of the women (38.2 percent) cited other family or personal obligations as reasons for working part time. Other reasons included their being in school or training (17.6 percent), being retired or having the Social Security limit on earnings (7.8 percent), and child care problems (6.9 percent).

Many women continued to work in the services and trade sectors, where part-time positions are plentiful. In 2001, more than a third of women worked in the services industry, and almost 16 percent in the trade sector. For men, one in five were employed in services and another one in five worked in manufacturing in 2001.

While one in five women still worked in administrative support (including clerical) occupations in 2001, one in five also worked in the professional field, which was a higher proportion than men held (16.9 percent). More women were employed in management positions than previously, despite the recession, rising in employment share from 16.2 percent in 1996 to 17.1 percent in 2001. A greater proportion of women workers also entered technical fields (37.7 percent) than men (22.2 percent).

A Diverse Workforce

The black and Hispanic share of the labor force essentially has not changed from five years ago. They constituted 10.7 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, of the total labor force in 2001, while 87 percent was white. (Detail for race and Hispanic-origin groups will not add to 100 percent because data for the "other races" group are not presented and Hispanics are included in both the white and black population groups).

Five years later, whites still dominate in the managerial and professional fields, while the largest percentage of blacks and Hispanics held jobs in service occupations. In fact, while whites' share of workers in these fields increased, they declined for blacks and Hispanics since 1996. There were no noticeable changes in the percent share in other occupational groups for whites and blacks in the last five years. For Hispanics, however, there were dramatic increases of employed persons in sales; administrative support, including clerical; and precision production, craft, and repair.

Involuntary Part-Timers

Connecticut had a total of 20,000 involuntary part-time workers in 2001. These are persons who work part time for economic reasons which include: slack work or business conditions, inability to find full-time work, and seasonal declines in demand. Men had a slightly larger share of involuntary part-time workers (8.3 percent) than women did (5.7 percent) in 2001. Almost one in five blacks (18.2 percent) and Hispanics (18.8 percent) worked as involuntary part-timers, while this was the case for 5.5 percent of whites.

Hours of Work

In 2001, of those who usually worked full time, the biggest reason for working less than 35 hours a week was due to taking vacation or personal days (39.3 percent). For workers who usually worked part time, the major factor for working less than 35 hours was attributed to other family or personal obligations (27.8 percent). This was especially the case for women (38.2 percent), whereas four out of every ten men said that being in school or training caused them to work fewer hours. For those not at work, over half of the persons with a job said they were on vacation at the time of the survey. About 17.1 percent cited their own illnesses as reason for not being at work.

Unemployment

Any comparison of unemployment in the years 1986, 1996, and 2001 needs to consider the difference in economic conditions in the three years. In 1986, Connecticut was in the midst of an economic boom and had a low unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, compared to 5.7 percent in 1996. In 2001, the jobless rate fell further, to 3.3 percent. Unemployment rates were lower in 2001 than in 1996 among all population groups. Joblessness for blacks was 6.5 percent in 2001, compared with 14.4 percent in 1996. The Hispanic labor force had 7.2 percent who were unemployed, down from 17.3 percent in 1996. White women experienced the lowest rate in both 1996 (4.6 percent) and 2001 (2.8 percent).

Those who involuntarily lost jobs made up half (50.7 percent) of the total number of unemployed persons in 2001. Reentrants, who previously worked but were out of the labor force prior to beginning their job search, made up 29.5 percent of the total unemployed. Their situations were essentially the same as five years ago. The proportion of voluntary job leavers did increase, however, from 9.7 percent in 1996 to 13.9 percent in 2001, though still below 1986's 20.4 percent. Only the proportion of new entrants showed continued declines, with 9.1 percent in 1986, 7.1 percent in 1996, and 5.8 percent in 2001, suggesting that the current recession is discouraging job seekers from even entering the tight job market.

In 2001, about a third (36.1 percent) of the total unemployed experienced jobless spells lasting less than 5 weeks. This was somewhat less than in 1996 (30.6 percent). More than a quarter (28.6 percent) remained unemployed for more than 15 weeks in 2001, which was slightly below 1996's 36.6 percent. Of these long-term unemployed, 11.8 percent were without a job for more than 27 weeks, compared to 18.8 percent back in 1996. About one out of every twenty unemployed persons in 2001 had been looking for a job for over a year.

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Occupation Profile: Computer Support Specialists
By Michael H. Zotos, Ed.D., Research Analyst, DOL

Introduction

Computer support specialists are the front line of business and industry who provide the necessary technical and procedural assistance to clients and employees. Living and working in a highly technical society, utilizing computers and software, often generates questions requiring answers from competent, knowledgeable, and well-trained specialists. We look to these individuals for guidance in all sectors of our computerized society.

What They Do

Computer support specialists administer the help desk of companies or institutions and offer help primarily in the area of technical support dealing with practices and procedures of data and information processing. The maintenance and operation of all aspects of technology include keyboards, printers, monitors, mainframes, servers, and multi office equipment.

Those companies that sell computer equipment and software employ support specialists who are on call at all hours of the day, offering suggestions to clients on how best to operate programs or equipment or trouble shoot technical problems dealing with programs and equipment.

Education

Requirements for computer support specialists are somewhat broad based. It is recommended that candidates acquire an Associate's Degree for entry level purposes. Advanced degrees or education above this level would enhance opportunities for advancement in the field. Experience in the information and data processing field is usually a prerequisite together with a certificate or degree. "Hands on" experience is another qualification which enhances one's ability to generate career opportunities.

Community colleges and private vendors offer coursework, seminars, and workshops in computer related fields for those who are seeking other alternatives to a formal four-year degree. Some companies and institutions may require vendor-based certificates which qualify candidates for certain specialized software and hardware based programs.

Earnings

Computer support specialists in Connecticut earn an average annual wage of $45,620. Earnings higher than the statewide average are generally found in southwestern and western Connecticut. For those persons who are beginning this career, the entry level wage is around $32,000. At the national level, the average salary is $20.16 per hour, or $41,920 annually.

Employment Outlook

Nationally, computer support specialists are projected to be among the fastest growing occupations over the 2000-10 period. In Connecticut, 7,720 persons are currently employed as computer support specialists. By the year 2010, this occupation is projected to grow by another 5,260 positions. In fact, this is expected to be the fastest growing occupation in the State, growing by 68.1 percent over the decade. Following computer support specialists, the next six occupations are also computer related. With regard to the number of jobs being generated, this occupation ranks fourth overall. In terms of the total number of the annual job openings (due to both job growth and replacement needs), it is ranked in the top twenty.

Although the computer industry is presently in a holding pattern regarding sales and production, it is expected to generate a much higher level of growth due to the need of businesses and individuals to replace old equipment and as a result of continuing innovation in the industry. Job prospects are likely to remain very optimistic for the foreseeable future.

For additional information about a career as a computer support specialist, contact:

Association of Computer Support Specialists, 218 Huntington Rd., Bridgeport, CT 06608. Internet: http://www.acss.org

Association of Support Professionals, 66 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02472.

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Housing Update
916 Units Authorized in May

Commissioner James F. Abromaitis of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Connecticut communities authorized 916 new housing units in May 2003, a 4.3 percent decrease compared to May of 2002 when 957 units were authorized.

The Department further indicated that the 916 units permitted in May 2003 represent a seven percent increase from the 856 units permitted in April 2003. The year-to-date permits are down 13.9 percent, from 4,014 through May 2002, to 3,455 through May 2003.

The Waterbury Labor Market Area (LMA) showed the largest number (70 units) and percentage (137 percent) increase of permits issued when compared to a year ago. Torrington and Bridgeport LMAs also had net gain of 20 units and 19 units respectively. For year-to-date, the Torrington Labor Market Area is the only LMA to show an increase in permit authorizations. Waterbury led all Connecticut communities with 70 new units, followed by Southington with 28 and Ellington with 26. From a county perspective, Tolland County had the smallest year-to-date loss of 5.3 percent.

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Published by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Office of Research
Last Updated: July 1, 2003