WETHERSFIELD — Preliminary figures from the state’s Department of Labor show that there were 4,100 fewer nonfarm jobs in the state in April compared with the previous month, and 2,300 fewer positions compared with April 2011. However, the numbers could be misleading because of factors that include mild winter weather which made for above-average employment activity in industries that usually see a slow-down during the winter months. That could make spring employment figures less sanguine.

“The decline in both monthly and annual job growth numbers in April is disappointing, but unusual seasonal patterns this past winter into spring make these numbers difficult to interpret,” said Andy Condon, director of DOL’s Office of Research, in a statement. Condon chose to interpret the numbers optimistically, saying, “Despite variability in growth from month to month we still appear to be on a path of positive, albeit modest, job growth.” Connecticut saw a net gain of 5,300 jobs in the first four months of this year, according to the department. The state’s April unemployment rate remained the same as the previous month, 7.7 percent.

 NEW HAVEN — Much bigger and much better for the city of New Haven is how Higher One describes its new headquarters, which can accommodate ten times the number of employees that the company’s previous location in Science Park originally housed. The former Winchester Arms Factory site, fully refurbished to serve as Higher One headquarters, can accommodate 240 employees. “I’m happy the state of Connecticut saw the wisdom in making the investments alongside our partner Higher One to rebuild this great building and mark a new history for New Haven,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is quoted in a Higher One press release as saying. The governor was among several dignitaries attending a March 20 ribbon cutting ceremony.

Higher One, which also has offices in Oakland, Calif. and Atlanta, employs some 600 workers nationwide.

 NEW HAVEN — Services at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s main location on York Street are supplemented by a number of facilities throughout the region. Among them are blood-drawing sites. All must be staffed. And that’s where ConnCAT comes in.

A new community program housed in a refurbished second-floor facility at 4 Science Park, ConnCAT — or the Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology — will devote some of its resources to training unemployed New Haven-area residents in marketable job skills. Initially the focus will be on medical coding and phlebotomy.

“These are two market-relevant job training [areas] indicated by Yale [YNHH] as a need for them immediately,” explains Erik Clemons, ConnCAT’s executive director and president. The program formally opened its doors last month with a festive gathering of community leaders who, according to reports of the event, met the city’s latest effort to aid job-seekers with wholehearted enthusiasm.

That wasn’t always the case.

Four years ago, when the idea for what would become ConnCAT was first made public, many observers doubted the enterprise would be successful, and some even met it with resentment. Fanning the flames of doubt was a $150,000 Community Foundation for Greater New Haven-funded feasibility study. A popular sentiment was that the money would be better spent on needy programs and projects already in the funding channel.

“Coming in I knew there was a lot of skepticism, given the number of competing resources,” says Clemons, “and also given the scope of what we were trying to do.”

What helped quell much of the criticism were the program’s fit with other city initiatives and the can-do attitude of area businessman Carlton Highsmith, says Clemons.

The “fit” is with the idea of a jobs pipeline, a proposed collaboration of training, educational and business entities touted by both Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and the Board of Aldermen as a way to reduce local unemployment. ConnCAT fits that blueprint, says Clemons.

“It was timely,” he says.

As for Highsmith, the founder and former CEO of Specialized Packaging Group, came out of retirement to spearhead the $5 million fundraising effort needed to get ConnCAT up and running.

In addition to employment training, the program also has an arts component geared towards at-risk New Haven-area youth. That is set to start this fall. The job training will begin within weeks, says Clemons, as soon as ConnCAT receives the necessary certification as a private occupational school by the state’s Department of Labor. This first class will consist of 40 adult trainees.

“We’re interviewing now,” says Clemons. Preliminary requirements for residents include New Haven County residence, possession of a Social Security number and high school diploma or GED, and passage of a criminal background check as well as a numeric and literacy exam.

For potential trainees who can’t meet all the requirements, there’s help, at least in some areas. For example remedial reading instruction is available for those who don’t pass the literacy exam (a tenth- to 11th-grade level is required).

“We’ve built a literacy classroom in the facility,” says Clemons. “We’ve partnered with Literacy Volunteers, and volunteers will tutor those who don’t meet the threshold.”

Going the extra mile to aid out-of-work local residents is a principle handed to ConnCAT by its progenitor, the Pittsburgh-based National Center for Arts & Technology. ConnCAT is the fifth affiliate of that program. All affiliates fall under the auspices of the Manchester Bidwell Corp., created as a parent organization in 1999.

Founder Bill Strickland wanted CAT to be an oasis for Pittsburgh’s underserved — and perpetually unemployed — population. In addition to New Haven, other CAT programs have been established in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Grand Rapids and San Francisco. A sixth program will be launched in Buffalo, N.Y., next year, Clemons says.

Each program aims to reduce unemployment by training local residents to be market-relevant by filling positions needed in the local economy. Thus it’s fitting that New Haven’s initiative begins with the medical coding and blood-drawing needs of the city’s second-largest employer, YNHH. ConnCAT also is looking to establish future partnerships with employers having similar needs, such as Quest Diagnostics and the American Red Cross, says Clemons. In addition, he says that ConnCAT will expand to include a culinary program within the next two years.

Students who participate in the arts component of ConnCAT also could eventually benefit from the job training program, Clemons adds.

“Our main goal [with the arts component] is for young people to go to college,” he says. “But for those who do not go to college, they can just walk across the hall and start job training.”

HARTFORD — Growing and retaining jobs that help protect the environment are among the priorities of the state legislature’s newly formed Long Island Sound Caucus, established to address energy, economic and environmental issues impacting the Sound. “I am proud to be part of this bipartisan group focused on protecting the waters, wildlife and economy of our home state,” said State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36) of Greenwich, a member of the caucus’ steering committee. “Along the shoreline, we all depend on Long Island Sound for natural resources, transportation and recreation, and we must work together to solve current and future challenges. It is my hope that we can achieve our goals so that future generations can continue to enjoy this beautiful resource.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — First Lady Michelle Obama is enlisting American businesses to help address employment needs of military spouses and veterans. In an April conference call with Business New Haven and other media outlets, the first lady announced that 11 companies have signed on provide 15,000 home-oriented customer service, health-care and/or telecommunications jobs to military-service families. The jobs offer “flexibility” and “portability” for the highly mobile members of the armed forces, said Obama. “These men and women are doing so much,” she said, “packing up and moving from state to state.” Often, she added, military personnel are “the most talented, the most resilient and the most employable people around.” The private-sector jobs creation is part of the Joining Forces Initiative, which Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, started a year ago to aid and advocate for military families. “These men and women are valuable resources to this society,” said Obama. During the conference call the first lady was joined Brad Cooper, executive director of Joining Forces, and military spouse Dawn Schaeffer.

 WETHERSFIELD — Connecticut’s unemployment rate fell in March, but so did the state’s total number of nonfarm jobs. The latter decline — a loss of 2,700 positions — may well have been weather-related, according to the director of the Department of Labor’s Office of Research. “The warm winter allowed many weather-sensitive job sectors to remain active longer and show stronger growth than is typical. As a result, the normal seasoned upswings we see in the spring appear smaller than usual,” said Andy Condon in a release. “Once seasonally adjusted,” he explained, “some of these sectors, including construction and trade, are now showing declines.”

The greatest losses were in the trade transportation ad utilities supersector, which shed 2,300 positions in March, and the construction sector, which lost 1,300 jobs. However, the state saw a net gain of 10,500 jobs (0.6 percent) over the past year. And March saw significant gains in some sectors, including administrative and waste management services (1,900 jobs added) and professional and business services (an increase of 600). The unemployment rate was 7.7 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from February. The national unemployment rate was 8.2 percent.

 ANSONIA — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has cited International Stone Inc. for 11 alleged violations of workplace safety standards at its Ansonia marble and granite fabrication operation. Proposed penalties for the company total $47,600.

OSHA’s Bridgeport office opened an inspection December 1 in response to a complaint. OSHA found employees cutting and polishing granite and marble with unguarded grinders and without eye, face and hand protection; unapproved electrical equipment and outlets used in wet locations; blocked access to circuit breakers; ungrounded, spliced and misused extension cords; worn or illegible control buttons for a crane used to lift and move slabs of marble and granite; trip and fall hazards; and obstructed exit access. These conditions resulted in citations for nine serious violations carrying $35,000 in proposed fines. Two repeat violations, with $12,600 in proposed fines, involve hazards similar to those cited during a 2008 OSHA inspection of International Stone’s Marshfield, Mass., location.

The company had 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.