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Fairfield County 'Toughest Place to Find a Job'

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – There's even more bad news for anyone without a job in Fairfield County. It's tougher to find a job in the Fairfield County region than anywhere else in the country, according to a new article in Forbes Magazine.

"The worst area of all for finding a job this fall is Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.," the Forbes story states. "Only 12 percent of surveyed Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area employers plan to hire between October and December, while 19 percent expect to reduce their staff levels. Sixty-nine percent expect to maintain their current workforce. This yields a net employment outlook of -7 percent for the Connecticut metropolis."

The article is based on a survey released by ManpowerGroup, which found the best place to look for a job in the country is San Antonio, Tex.

"Employers are hesitant about hiring in this economic climate. They are remaining guarded, and that is reflected in these results," said Melanie Holmes, vice president at ManpowerGroup.

Political and business leaders across the county say the Forbes article should serve as a warning that changes are needed, pointing out that job gains made earlier in the year have slowed again and could signal a longer period of economic stagnation–even in affluent Fairfield County.

Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said he is "surprised and disappointed" with the latest bleak jobs outlook for his city and county.

"What surprises me most is that this gloomy jobs forecast is being made despite the level of business diversity we have in this city and region," said Pavia. "It's not like we're a single-industry city or region. But it is true that one of the best economic predictors is the construction industry, and it's as flat as I've ever seen it.

"The problem is we're also seeing no signs of recovery in most other sectors, such as in auto manufacturing and the housing industry," said Pavia.

Joe McGee, vice president of the Business Council of Fairfield County in Stamford, said the Forbes story provides more evidence for the need to develop an overall economic growth strategy in Stamford and across the county.

"Whether this survey is overly pessimistic, it does raise the point [that] we have to place far more focus on the underlying investments that create jobs," McGee said. "But Fairfield County's unemployment rate of 8.3 percent is less than the national average, and we went back and looked at their [Forbes] projection of last year's fourth quarter and it turned out they overestimated the lack of jobs that would be created here."

Still, McGee added, "this is a warning that we have to focus on investment in infrastructure, such as improvements to highways, mass transit and affordable housing–all of which will create jobs and make it more likely the educated, young work force can live here."

McGee said there's also a silver lining in the survey–productivity is up considerably as companies get by with a reduced work force. And those who have jobs in Fairfield County are earning about $3,000 more on average than a year ago, rising from about $76,000 last year to $79,000.

But Paul Timpanelli, president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, which includes 1,000 members across Fairfield County, said the Forbes story and survey "should send a powerful message to the state legislature.”

"We need to make this region and state much more hospitable for business," Timpanelli said. "With higher taxes and all the regulations, employers don't want to expand, and companies don't want to move here. That has to change or we're not going to see an influx of new jobs any time soon."

To reach Richard Weizel, email rweizel@mainstreetconnect.us.

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