Business & Economy

Unemployment rate drops, but labor force declines

December brought good news and bad news for Vermont’s jobs picture: The unemployment rate dropped again, but so did the labor force.

Among the people who consider themselves ready and willing to work, more of them were employed in December than in recent months. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains among the lowest in the nation, at just 4.2 percent compared to a national average of 6.7 percent.

But fewer people consider themselves ready and willing to work. Vermont’s labor force lost about 950 people in December, dropping to 349,900 — the lowest in 35 years, according to state economist Tom Kavet.

“This serves to lower the unemployment rate, but underscores the exceptionally weak employment growth that has characterized this recovery,” Kavet wrote in his January report to the Legislature.

The reasons for the decline could range from retirement to layoffs to giving up hope. Business leaders and some economists have expressed concern in recent weeks over the continuing decline.

But Kavet and his counterpart, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s economist Jeff Carr, saw early indicators of improvements on their horizon. Their consensus forecast in early January predicted modest gains this year, and stronger growth in 2015.

Department of Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan recognizes that many residents continue to look for jobs — or better jobs — even as the state’s economy slowly recovers. She encourages anyone to take full advantage of the resources her offices offer, in particular job training opportunities.

“Depending upon a person’s eligibility, we can provide funding for training,” Noonan said in a press release. “We also have specific funding for workers who are laid off or who lost their job as a result of adverse foreign trade impacts. We have funding to work with ‘at risk’ youth, Vermont veterans, low-income Vermonters and Reach Up participants.”

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To get a better sense of the jobs that comprise Vermont’s economy, click through the interactive graph below. The visualization shows the relative size of the major industries and sectors, measured by the number of people each employs in the state. It is based on preliminary estimates from December 2013 surveys, so the numbers may change as more data becomes available in early 2014.

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Hilary Niles

About Hilary

Hilary Niles joined VTDigger in June 2013 as data specialist and business reporter. She returns to New England from the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, where she completed her master's coursework. While there, she worked at Investigative Reporters & Editors and covered state and local government for radio, print and the Web. She’s been a researcher-in-residence at American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop in Washington, D.C.; a reporter and community radio program director in the New Hampshire; and, in Boston, a public radio producer. She studied English at the University of New Hampshire and documentary writing at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine.

Email: [email protected]

Follow Hilary on Twitter @nilesmedia

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