Annual Sacred Heart Student Analysis Finds State at a Crossroads

News Story: May 15, 2018

Business students

Connecticut stands at a critical economic crossroads, and decisions made in the next two years may have serious repercussions for years to come, according to research released recently at Sacred Heart University.

Students in the Jack Welch College of Business presented the annual Connecticut Economic Outlook in the Forum at the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center, assessing the state’s macroeconomic indicators, such as state growth, unemployment and business investment.

An annual project for students in Professor Lucjan Orlowski’s economic and financial forecasting class, the presentation included detailed analyses of structural changes to the state’s economy and labor, its education and science potential, the housing market, the financial sector and the health of Connecticut’s budget.

“We need your young minds and refreshing thoughts—unconventional thoughts,” Orlowski told his students prior to their presentation before an audience of about 75.

The students detailed the serious challenges facing Connecticut in 2018, including the exodus of people and high-profile corporations, such as GE. Connecticut taxes—on both individuals and companies—rank among the highest in the nation, fueling the migration, they said.

While the country finally seems to be rebounding from its 2008 financial crisis, Connecticut shows sluggish growth to its gross domestic product, which currently stands at .267 percent.

“The state of Connecticut is lagging the overall Fed’s goal,” said student Dan Cohen ’18 of Norwalk.

The team also found the state’s population growth has been stagnant in the last few years, with an increase of just .01 percent compared to.13 percent overall in the northeast. The U.S. population rose about 1.16 percent in recent years, the students reported.

However, they said the state’s labor market is strong, and Connecticut boasts a 4.5 percent unemployment rate, a little less than the national average of 4.7 percent.

The class found that about 27 percent of workers in the state are 55 or older, more than the national average of 23 percent. This figure is a double-edged sword: More state workers will be retiring in the coming decade. However, that will fuel the state’s health care industry, as more people will need senior services, the team found.

The aerospace and shipbuilding industries have brought more manufacturing jobs to the state. The trick is finding ways to entice millennials to attain the training they need to fill those jobs and make those areas sustainable for the future, the students said.

While the state budget is currently in the red, Connecticut has a lot of potential, the students found. Residents have a high level of education, with more than 40 percent of the age 25-plus population holding bachelor’s degrees, said student Tom Ketcham ’18 of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Again, the state needs to find ways to keep these young, educated, professionals in Connecticut—and lure more with attractive job prospects, such as those in high-tech industries. A strong system of science and technology programs at Connecticut’s colleges and universities might help retain desirable workers, said student James Solari ’18 of Farmington.

“Connecticut is doing very well in the science and technology aspects,” he said.

Well positioned along the New York City-Boston corridor, Connecticut has to find a way to compete with these desirable metropolitan areas—both for larger corporations and the employees to work for them. Lessening individual and corporate taxes—perhaps replacing them with tolls or casinos—might be the answer, the students said. (There is plenty of discussion about a potential casino in Bridgeport, but the state legislature recently shot down a proposal for highway tolls.)

“What do companies care about? Companies care about making money,” said student Ryan Hoover ’18 of Madison, N.J. “Connecticut needs to find a way to attract and retain these companies.”

Orlowski said he hopes to share the students’ findings with local and state leaders. He believes their insights will provide a valuable resource.

“I think they captured a lot of the points and trends,” he said. “We need a more holistic approach.”

CT Economic Outlook 5/2/18