- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Workers at Connecticut Department of Labor job centers and other agency offices were issued layoff notices Wednesday because of a drop in federal funding that’s tied to the state’s improving unemployment rate.

Connecticut’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent in June, the lowest it has been since July of 2008. In all, 95 mostly federally funded positions will be eliminated by Oct. 1. The agency has about 800 employees.

Under collective bargaining agreements that cover the affected workers, the state must provide at least six weeks’ notice of the layoffs, said Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes.

Many of the employees whose positions are being eliminated may have the right to “bump” other workers with less seniority, either within the labor department or elsewhere in state government. Also, some of the workers may be able to fill vacant jobs, Department of Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer said.

“We’re going to hunt down every job that we can find,” she said, adding how some of the workers have 20 to 25 years of experience.

The layoffs stem from a loss of $28 million in federal funding this fiscal year and a $32 million shortfall next fiscal year. The funding amount is based on a formula that takes into account the state’s unemployment rate.

“It (unemployment) has been coming down over the last several years since the recession, so the funding has been coming down,” Palmer said. “So it was just a matter of time that we got into a situation we just couldn’t cover.”

With the loss of funds, the department plans to close job centers in Danielson, Bridgeport, Hamden, Hartford, New London and Waterbury; consolidate adjudications into three locations; consolidate field audits into six locations; reduce locations for appeals; and merge two call centers.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said state officials reviewed whether the funding reduction could be appealed, but it doesn’t appear possible.

“Obviously as you have more people to serve, the federal government grows the staff of people. And as you have less people to serve, the federal government shrinks the staff,” he said, adding that the silver lining is Connecticut’s falling unemployment rate.


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