Although the national unemployment rate grew to 9.8 percent in Sept., Middletown’s unemployment rate has remained below the national average at 7.5 percent, according to the City’s Statistics Report. The biggest problem currently facing Middletown employees, according to the Report, is a potential pullback in hiring in response to the economic downturn.
Although students make up less than 18 percent of the City’s population of 48,000, Deputy Director of Planning, Conservation, and Development for Middletown Michiel Wackers reported that the University is Middletown’s fifth largest employer.
“Wesleyan is an internationally known University, so they’re able to attract employees from around the world,” Wackers said. “However, there are still a lot of support systems and staff positions where they employ people from Middletown.”
According to Wackers, the variety of visitors that the University attracts has contributed to the continuing “Renaissance of Middletown,” which includes an increase of restaurants and other retail storefronts in Middletown, particularly on Main Street.
“Visitors are attracted to what Wesleyan has to offer, especially in terms of arts and lectures,” he said. “For Wesleyan, a lot of investment is focused on the campus and on creating an institution that is pleasant to visit. Broad Street Books and the Green Street Arts Center are examples of off-campus investment that have benefited Middletown.”
Wackers acknowledged that the current economic climate has lowered the rate of hiring across the board. He said that the City has run a variety of programs to stimulate job creation and investment, such as job fairs.
“We want an institution that can remain for the long-term, and even if that means that [the University] is not employing the number people now that we would hope for, we know they have plans to invest for the long-term and contribute to the economic vitality of the community,” he said.