November sees little change in unemployment rate

Vermont's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.4 percent in November. Graphic courtesy Vermont Department of Labor.

Vermont’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.4 percent in November. Graphic courtesy Vermont Department of Labor.

The monthly unemployment rate in Vermont nudged down in November to 4.4 percent.

The one-tenth percent shift in the seasonally adjusted estimate since October was not statistically significant. It puts the state in a four-way tie for the fourth lowest rate in the country, alongside Hawaii, Iowa and Wyoming. The national rate is 7 percent.

Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan said that, despite “ups and downs” and slow growth, the general trend in jobs numbers has been positive. That said, she acknowledges that not all Vermonters enjoyed economic progress.

“(T)his Department is committed to working with anyone who needs our help, whether they are unemployed, under-employed, or in need of education or training to move them to a livable wage,” Noonan wrote in a release. She encouraged anyone looking for career guidance or job placement assistance to contact one of the 12 Career Resource Centers around the state.

In raw numbers, about 15,350 people are unemployed. That’s 600 fewer unemployed than the month before, and 2,300 fewer than this time last year. The state has a potential labor force of 350,800 workers.

According to the Labor Department, leisure and hospitality job growth can be thanked in part for the dip. Some job creation in manufacturing also helped, while state government and financial services payroll numbers declined, as did employment in wholesale trade.

State economist Tom Kavet said the Federal Reserve Bank’s Dec. 18 announcement reflects faith in the nation’s economic recovery. In a nearly unanimous vote, the Fed’s board of governors agreed to begin tapering off their current bond-buying program, which had been designed to help carry the economy through the recession.

“I think it’s a very favorable development that the Fed thinks they can reduce their support a little bit,” Kavet said. He noted, however, that the sole dissenting voice on the board was Eric Rosengren, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, whose job it is to monitor New England’s economic health.

According to a release from the Fed, Rosengren wanted to see more evidence of growth “likely to be sustained above its potential rate” before taking the monetary policy off its crutches.

“New England is not performing particularly poorly relative to the rest of country,” said Kavet, who sits on an advisory board for the Boston Fed. “But his perspective was it needed a little more time.”

As measured by a broader definition of unemployment, which takes into consideration people who are underemployed or who have given up looking for work, Vermont’s unemployment rate is about 9.4 percent of the labor market.

The national rate by the same measure, called U-6, is 14.1 percent.

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  1. Jim Barrett :

    The unemployment rate is very low in Vermont however the state continues to bleed money and higher taxes are again on the way. Shumlin gets on TV and declares how well we are doing and then I read reports that the welfare rolls are exploding, children are hungry and businesses are closing or moving out! The state needs billions to cover the healthcare mess they created and who will be FORCED to pay….every VERMONTER! Keep voting this bunch into office!

    • Jim,
      Being employed is one thing, but:

      - are people being adequately paid
      - and do they have good benefits
      - and do they have money to spend after taxes and fees?

      Already-struggling households and businesses have been dealing with a near-zero-growth Vermont economy since 2007, with the tax-burdened, private sector shrinking relative to the growing government sector, which is acting as a wet blanket on the private sector, a sure recipe for economic stagnation, lack of well-paid employment growth (except in government) or worse.

      Historical Real Median Household Income for the United States and Vermont

      US: 2012 $51,371; 2011 $51,557; 2010 $52,703; 2009 $53,760; 2008 $55,484; 2007 $56,189; 2006 $55,176; 2005 $54,387

      VT: 2012 $52,977; 2011 $53,878; 2010 $52,029; 2009 $55,256; 2008 $55,564; 2007 $55,266; 2006 $54,281; 2005 $53,733

      Cost of Living Index, by state

      US: 100
      ME: 110.4
      NH: 120
      VT: 120.1
      MA: 121.9
      RI: 123.3
      CA: 124.3
      NJ: 127.9
      CT: 131.4
      NY: 131.4
      AK: 131.5
      DC: 141.6
      HA: 158.3

      The VT cost of living index is about 20% greater than the US COL index, but the Vermont mean real income is only 3% greater than the US mean real income.

      VT’s standard of living is about 17% less than the US standard of living.

  2. Pete Novick :

    There’s an interesting article posted in the December 27 issue of the Washington Post that provides a comparison of state economic outcomes for 2013 and is based on data from gold standard sources. Here’s a link to the article:

    Here’s now Vermont did in 2013:

    Average hourly earnings: 1.08%
    Average weekly earnings: 1.38%
    State tax collections: 2.9%
    State reserve fund growth: $5M
    Single family building permits: (6%)

    The scary take-away here is housing starts which are down 6% year-on-year. Vermont’s population continues to decline in the cohort most important to long term economic health: working aged couples with education, skills and experience and school aged children. These people are not relocating to Vermont, where our wages are below the national average and our cost of living is about 20% higher than the national average.

    For a useful benchmark, look no further than school closings and consolidations. Here in Windham County, we have closed and consolidated three schools in the last 2+ years. Projecting the current enrollment trend to around 2020, there is a good chance Leland & Gray in Townshend will have to consider closing as well.

    Now add Vernon and surrounding town schools to the mix, as more than 100 students leave in the next couple of years as their parents find jobs elsewhere when Vermont Yankee ceases power generation operations.

    To put the emerging VT – VY deal into perspective, VY employs about 650 people at an average salary/wage of $100K, which is a $65M annual payroll. Assuming Entergy reduces the workforce by 2/3 by December 2014, Windham County loses about $43M in annual payroll.

    Entergy has agreed to make mostly one-time payments to Vermont of about $45M. When that money is gone, it’s gone.

    Even if VY is decommissioned at the end of 2014, and the site decontaminated by 2025 – a highly unlikely scenario – Windham Country will have lost more than half a billion dollars in Vermont Yankee payroll.

    That’s a lot of housing starts.

    So where are our elected state representatives in all this, and why isn’t job one in Montpelier to drive private sector growth the way Massachusetts and other states do?

    Sustained, year-on-year economic growth of at least 3% GDP is the one sure-fire way to realize substantive gains in the standard of living. It is the tide that lifts all boats. The benefits are immediate: higher employment, higher wages and salaries, higher corporate and personal tax revenue, fewer hungry children, more families who can afford decent housing, better public health outcomes, more intact families, etc. Every one of the above outcomes improves state finances.

    Regrettably, Vermont is not even close to that 3% growth benchmark, and here’s a snapshot for 2012 GDP growth by state published by the US Department of Commerce:

    As you can see, Vermont’s economy grew at an annual rate of only 1.2% in 2012 and about the same in 2013.

    In closing, which of these two headlines is more likely to appear on the front page of your local newspaper:

    “ABC Engineering Company to Expand – 35 New Jobs Coming to [name of your town]”

    “ABC Community Group Receives $25K Grant to Study Economic Development”

    • Doug Hoffer :

      Mr. Novick

      One-year figures are not the most reliable measures.

      According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the real (inflation adjusted) growth of Vermont’s private sector Gross State Product from 2008 to 2012 was 14th best in the country, well above the U.S. rate, and the highest in New England.

      You also asserted that robust GDP growth would lead to “substantive gains in the standard of living.” Actually, that was true for many years but is no longer the case. GDP keeps rising but wages are stagnant.



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