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What Does the Future Hold for New Haven’s Economy?

New Haven politicians are hopeful about the city’s economic prospects this year, despite the continued epidemic and a dwindling workforce.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Elm City’s unemployment rate has consistently fallen since the pandemic began, from just over 10% in May 2020 to just over 4% by the end of 2021. The city has seen economic growth in the last year, with its credit rating being raised to Positive. However, other economic studies, like the one produced by Connecticut Voices for Children, forecast a lengthy and difficult recovery from the pandemic.

David Lehman, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and the governor’s senior economic advisor, expressed confidence in the state’s ability to effectively combat COVID-19, allowing the economy to continue its recovery, at a panel hosted by the Hartford Business Journal on Jan. 19.

“We now know a lot more about this condition and how to treat it,” said Lehman. “Now that we have a lot larger information base, we can understand how essential vaccinations are when we look at the statistics.” Unvaccinated persons make up between two and three out of every four people in our hospitals. The vaccination is by far the most effective mitigant, which is one of the reasons we’re not discussing limits and instead focusing on keeping the economy open.”

In the short term, the Omicron variation will continue to hurt local companies and restaurants, according to Garrett Sheehan, President and CEO of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

Sheehan asked everyone to patronize eateries and small businesses in New Haven to help them get through this month. Officials in the city have shared Sheehan’s comments, and last October, the city celebrated New Haven Restaurant Week.

Aside from the pandemic, Lehman spoke on the state budget and the employment forecast for 2022. In 2021, Connecticut’s state budget had a surplus of more than $1 billion, more than double the surplus of the previous year. These earnings have allowed the state to make payments toward unfunded pension liabilities, which Lehman believes the state will be able to manage in the long run. Lehman was similarly upbeat about jobs and the labor market.

“The year 2020 set a new record for business creation, only to be surpassed in 2021,” he stated. “I believe the great resignation, individuals doing new, different things, businesses shifting or being pushed to adjust, all of these factors are contributing to this.”

Lehman was ecstatic about the upheaval that happened during the epidemic, which resulted in the establishment of new firms. “Small and startup enterprises are among of the top hirers,” he explained. “When I think of future employment and economic growth, this is a huge plus.”

Kenneth Entenmann, Chief Economist and Chief Investment Officer of NBT Wealth Management, expressed worry about labor shortages during the panel. According to Entenmann, there are around 11 million employment opportunities in the United States, and approximately eight million employees are jobless or have dropped out of the labor as a result of the epidemic. However, other economists believe that the apparent labor shortage of the previous year is due to a lack of wage increases, rather than Americans’ unwillingness to work.

“You’d think this would be a simple arithmetic issue,” Entenmann explained. “I have 11 million job opportunities and eight million individuals looking for work.” That’s a simple calculation. However, I believe the COVID problem has altered the situation. I believe these figures will improve, but I am concerned that it may take longer.”

One of the most pressing concerns for Sheehan as the year progresses is how authorities might leverage fresh federal funding, whether for transportation or other economic development initiatives, to preserve a competitive advantage in today’s market.

The New Haven administration, according to Sheehan, will begin to roll out these programs over the next year in order to improve Elm City’s economy and make it a more appealing location for companies.

Sheehan is focusing on tackling manpower shortages in addition to boosting investment in infrastructure projects such as Tweed Airport and high-speed rail.

“Finding people for important roles is a struggle anywhere in the country, and honestly, it was even before the pandemic….” “The epidemic has just worsened this,” Sheehan added.

The Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, according to Sheehan, intends to address talent shortages through Talent Pipeline Management, a program that works with companies in certain areas, such as bioscience and manufacturing, to determine their employment requirements. This data is then shared with talent suppliers, such as universities, Workforce Alliance, community colleges, and even K-12 schools, in order to create a talent pipeline to meet the demands of businesses in various industries.

“We know there are a lot of individuals out there who are underemployed, haven’t had the skills training they need, or there’s simply a mismatch right now, so part of building these talent pipelines is to attempt to remedy that piece by piece.” Sheehan continued. “It’s not going to happen in a day or two. These are, after all, long-standing structural and historical concerns.”

According to Sheehan, the city is holding additional events, such as Life Science Sprints in Connecticut, which allows bioscience businesses to offer internships for the summer, to assist New Haven citizens take advantage of the city’s booming industry.

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