WETHERSFIELD — Nonfarm employment in Connecticut fell in December, leaving Connecticut with 3,900 fewer jobs than in the previous month. The 0.2-percent decline effectively reversed a 0.2-percent job gain in November, according to the Department of Labor’s Office of Research. Andy Condon, director of the office, sites winter weather conditions as a primary cause. “Connecticut’s payroll job counts appear to have been affected by bad winter weather around the time of the survey reference,” Condon stated. “On a brighter note,” he added, “the state’s unemployment rate continues to fall, and for better reasons than has sometimes been the case in the recent past. Declines in the number of unemployed residents largely were the result of employment rather than individuals leaving the labor force.”

The state’s unemployment rate for December was 7.4 percent. Regarding job losses, the Professional and Business Services sector was hit hardest, with a 2,600-job decline. The Trade, Transportation & Public Utilities sector lost 1,300 positions. Only two sectors saw job increases in December. The Financial Activities sector added 300 positions, and the sector categorized as Other Services grew by 900 jobs.

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minimum-wage service workers employed by the federal government will see an increase in their paychecks when a new presidential directive takes effect. President Barack Obama has announced he will, via executive order, raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for construction workers, custodians, dishwashers and others working under a federal contract for services.

 Malloy proposal would raise wage floor to $10.10 by 2017

 

HARTFORD — Just months after raising the state’s minimum wage to $9 over two years, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is once again looking to increase the required hourly pay rate, this time to $10.10 by the year 2017.

Like the minimum wage that took effect this year, this latest proposal, SB 32, would be  incremental. It changes last year’s law by establishing a $9.15 per hour minimum wage beginning January 1, 2015, raising it to $9.60 the following year, and to $10.10 on January 1, 2017.

“There is a debate happening across our country on how to tackle the growing income inequality that is detrimental to our middle-class families and to our economy,” said Malloy in a statement. “Part of tackling that critically important challenge is making sure that we recognize that a good and decent wage is good for workers and good for business.

“For too long, the minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living,” Malloy added. “As studies have shown, the workers who would benefit from a minimum-wage increase brought home 46 percent of their household’s total wage and salary income in 2011. When workers earn more money, businesses will have more customers. This modest boost will help those earning the least to make ends meet.”

Last year’s law raised the minimum wage to $8.70 (from the previous $8.25) at the beginning this year, and increases it again to $9 per hour at the start of 2015.

According to the governor’s release, about 80,000 of Connecticut’s 1.7 million-person workforce earn the minimum wage.

Malloy’s increased-wage initiative will be among legislation proposed during the General Assembly’s current  session.

The federal poverty guideline states that $23,850 for a four-member family. Malloy’s proposal would earn an employee working 40 hours a week about $21,008, according to the release.

 Business groups portray regard Malloy’s proposal as toxic.

According to a government affairs report from the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), the state’s largest business group: “Employers fought last year’s proposals largely on the basis that Connecticut’s economy still hasn’t rebounded from the recession. Studies have shown that increases to the minimum wage do a lot more to deprive work opportunities than provide for lower-skilled workers ands younger people.

“And to make up for higher labor costs, employers often are forced to do things nobody wants, especially in this economy: cut back on employee hours and benefits, limit opportunities to provide their employees training, and raise prices on goods and services,” added the CBIA report.

 

 WorkPath grants help would-be workers with incidental expenses

 

NEW HAVEN — You've been offered a job but you need to buy a uniform in order to begin work.  Or you need to pay a deposit to secure child care. Or you need to get your car fixed so you have reliable transportation to get you to work.

 

These are among the barriers that keep people from being able to find and keep a job.

A new initiative called the WorkPath Fund is designed to offer Connecticut parents with dependent children a solution: a modest grant to cover basic job-related costs to help surmount these and other similar barriers to employment.

The WorkPath Fund will provide a one-time grant of up to $1,000 paid directly to the vendor to cover job-related costs. The grants are designed to help families in need who are not eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

A collaboration headed by the Connecticut Commission on Children, Liberty Bank Foundation, Workforce Alliance and the four other workforce investment boards in the state helped raised the initial $105,500 for the WorkPath Fund from a group of 11 nonprofit organizations, including the United Way of Greater New Haven.

"We know that when families have been out of work, they have often used up their savings and don't have the money needed to cover costs associated with starting a new job," explains United Way Executive Vice President Jennifer Heath.  "One of United Way's areas of focus is to help improve families' financial stability. This investment will help people get back to work so that they can support their families and contribute to the economy."

The WorkPath Fund traces its origins to legislation passed in 2010 by the Speakers Task Force on Children in the Recession to support parents with dependent children in times of recession and high unemployment. The fund was announced at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford January 30.

Grant applications will be available through CTWorks Career Centers. In New Haven, CTWorks is located at 560 Ella Grasso Boulevard (203-624-1493); and in Hamden at 37 Marne Street (203-859-3200). Anyone interested in making a donation to the fund can do so at WorkforceAlliance.biz/WorkPath.html.

 OLD SAYBROOK — The Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce will explore the needs of the town’s home-based business community in a January 28 panel discussion. Panelists will include several successful home-based business-owners.

“Some of our [members] said we really need a group focused on home-based businesses,” explains Judy Sullivan, executive director of the Old Saybrook chamber. “Some have been working out of their homes for years.”

While no statistics have been formally compiled, Sullivan says anecdotal evidence points to a local increase in such operations.

“From my discussions there are more [home-based companies], because people are changing careers,” she says. Sullivan adds that while there seems to be no typical emerging home-based business-owner, many seek to fill a void in which everyday needs are not met.

“There’s one that’s a concierge business, doing errands and doing shopping,” Sullivan notes. “There are all different kinds [of home-based businesses].”

The idea is to create a group through which home-based owners can forge connections for goods and services that can help fuel their companies’ growth.

Among vigorous supporters of the concept of establishing a group for home-based businesses is Westbrook State Sen. Art Linares (R-33), who cofounded his own business at age 19 while a student in college.

“There’s a tremendous amount of home-based businesses in our area and in Connecticut,” says Linares, “so what we want to do is organize them and build a home-based business [group] at the Chamber of Commerce. Currently there’s not a home-based division of the chamber, so we’re looking to start that.

“More U.S. businesses are based out of [the entrepreneur’s] own home, so I think it’s a popular idea and we need to be encouraging it,” Linares adds.

Linares says he sees “many seniors opening up consulting businesses — real estate agents, financial consultants.”

While community business incubators that have been emerging over the past several years attract home-based business-owners with the lure of off-site office space for a modest fee, that concept is not what the Old Saybrook chamber is exploring, Linares explains.

“I think incubators are great,” he says. “I don’t want to compete with them. This [the chamber group] is for people who don’t have the resources to use an incubator. Even renting an office costs money.”

The January 28 panel will feature Carol Dahike, principal of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, Rich Bachand of Tarlov Financial, and Anne Garland of Anne Garland Enterprises. It will take place from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Pavilion at Saybrook Point, 150 College Street. There is no charge for admission, but RSVPs are requested. To learn more contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 A majority of employees who expected their usual end-of-year bonus for 2013 were not disappointed, according to a Robert Half survey. A staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half developed the survey in which more than 700 CFOs from companies based in more than 20 of the largest U.S. markets participated. An independent research firm queried those administrators. Fully two-thirds (67 percent) said they expected no changes in bonuses between 2012 and 2013. Seventeen percent said they expected bonuses to increase, and seven percent said they anticipated decreases.

“Bonuses can be a valuable way to acknowledge employees’ work and help retain valued staff members, many of whom have seen their roles expand in recent years without a commensurate spike in salary,” observed Robert Half Senior Executive Director Paul McDonald. “Firms that don’t offer bonuses, or plan to scale them back, may find other ways to reward their teams, such as training opportunities or staff celebrations. These non-monetary perks show staff members they’re valued and their contributions are appreciated by the organization.”

 NORWALK — HomeServe USA Corp. is relocating its corporate headquarters to Norwalk, bringing 130 jobs, the company announced last month. The move comes as a result of expansion that leaves the home emergency-repair business having outgrown its Stamford site. The new headquarters is located in the Merritt 7 Corporate Office Park. In addition to the new jobs, HomeServe will retain 109 positions.

“Our business has seen tremendous growth over the past decade as American homeowners have come to understand the value our service plans provide, and we’ve increased our employee numbers to meet that demand,” said HomeServe CEO Tom Rusin in a statement. “We’ve outgrown our Stamford office, which is the best kind of problem to have. This larger facility in Norwalk will better accommodate our expansion needs and position us for continued growth into the future.” The state is providing the company with financial incentives that include a $1 million grant to assist with expansion needs.