Officials from the state Department of Labor held a news conference this afternoon to provide an update on the unemployment situation in the state.
Connecticut Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby and Deputy Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo held a telephone news conference to give updates on state and federal unemployment insurance programs, the labor situation report, and the progress of the state’s consumer contact center.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the state received unprecedented numbers of unemployment assistance applications and they said they have processed more than 530,000 of the approximately 565,000 claim applications received.
Andy Condon, Director of the Office of Research at the Connecticut Department of Labor, said the state lost nearly 270,000 jobs in the month of April alone and he believes most of them were due to the pandemic.
Bartolomeo announced that the state’s consumer contact center is now fully operational. On July 6, a new website with a virtual bilingual assistant went live. The virtual assistant is called Tina, in honor of a former employee.
A new phone setup went into effect a couple of days later and the department can take more calls and it also has a callback function as well as chat functionality, she said.
This, she said, has helped the department answer more calls and handle more cases.
“Connecticut saw the largest single month gain in jobs on record in June,” Condon said in a statement. “However, this gain has to be viewed from the perspective of the unprecedented job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest job gains in June were seen in those industries most impacted by pandemic closures – Leisure & Hospitality, Trade, and Education & Healthcare.”
Still, the department has been receiving around 3,000 applications for unemployment per day.
Westby said the state gained jobs, gaining 73,000 from May.
The Department of Labor’s Office of Research estimates the unemployment rate to be in the range of 16 to 17 percent for the Mid-June period. They also estimate that the employment rate declined from May.
The unemployment rate is a decrease from May, Westby said during a call on Thursday.
The department said the agency has provided more than $1.8 billion in benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the state, including $672 million in state benefits; $1.135 billion in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation; and $37 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
During the call, Westby addressed an investigation into potential fraud and said they did not find any evidence of fraud by state employees, but that some employees were victims of identity theft.