Stamford Unemployment Ranks Lowest Among State’s Major Cities


By Paul Schott, Fairfield Citizen

Stamford posted the lowest average unemployment rate last year among the state’s five cities with more than 100,000 residents, according to a new report from the state Department of Labor.

As the state’s third-largest city, with about 130,000 residents, Stamford produced a 4.1 percent jobless rate for 2017. State officials and local business leaders see the city’s location and workforce as key drivers of the low unemployment.

“When you compare Stamford to the state’s other large cities, it is more of a financial center, which is a benefit,” said Andy Condon, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Research. “And Stamford also doesn’t have as large pockets of poverty as some of the other cities do.”

New Haven, the second-largest city, recorded a 6 percent unemployment rate. Bridgeport — the state’s largest city, with nearly 150,000 residents — averaged 6.8 percent for the year. Waterbury, the fifth-largest city, posted a 7.4 percent rate. Hartford, the fourth-largest city, lagged at 8.1 percent.

“Hartford’s unemployment rate reflects communities that have lower levels of education and lower earning power,” Condon said. “Other communities like Waterbury are old industrial towns where industry is no longer happening.”

All of the top-five cities saw their unemployment levels fall in the past year. Despite its high rate, Hartford saw the largest year-over-year percentage decrease in unemployment, a 1.1-point drop.

Among Fairfield County’s other large municipalities, Norwalk averaged a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, Danbury recorded a 3.9 percent level and Greenwich saw 3.7 percent unemployment.

Ongoing growth

Stamford’s proximity to New York City makes it desirable to many companies, including a large number of financial-services firms.

“Stamford is a very attractive place to live and work,” said Reyno Giallongo, chairman and CEO of First County Bank, which is headquartered at 3001 Summer St., and also operates eight branches in the city. “It’s connected via Metro-North to Manhattan and New Haven, and the downtown is very vibrant. The rents are probably more expensive than other parts of Connecticut, but they are still less expensive than Manhattan.”

Professional-services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced last month it would open a divisional headquarters at its existing downtown Stamford offices, at 300 Atlantic St. A day later, reality-television producer ITV America and startup Wheelhouse Entertainment revealed they would open a hub in the city’s South End, at 860 Canal St.

Combined, those firms plan to hire about 900 Stamford-based employees in the next few years.

“The location is a huge component of why Stamford has been as successful as it has been,” said Catherine Smith, the state’s economic development commissioner. “The access to New York is really important for some companies. So it’s not a surprise you would see the growth in the area of service-industry and digital-media companies.”

The city’s location also puts residents within a manageable commuting distance of a proliferation of companies. The fastest Metro-North ride from the downtown Stamford station to Grand Central Terminal takes about 50 minutes.

“Stamford has a large commuter community, and that has an impact in lowering the city’s unemployment rate,” Condon said.

Looking statewide

Last year’s statewide jobless rate of 4.7 percent, compared with a 5.1 average in 2016. In 2017, for the seventh year in a row, most cities and states saw declining unemployment, but fewer saw a decrease than in 2016.

Among the state’s 169 cities and towns, the jobless rate fell in 152, rose in nine and eight saw no annual change.

Canaan, a town of about 1,200 in the state’s northwest corner, posted the lowest unemployment rate, at 2.8 percent. Hartford accounted for the highest municipal jobless rate.

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; Twitter: @paulschott

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