The latest weekly report from the Vermont Department of Labor showed the state labor market continues to improve. Last week 1,465 workers were laid off and applied for unemployment insurance, 100 fewer than the week before and the seventh consecutive week of declining layoffs. During the first week of April more than 16,000 Vermonters lost their jobs.
While layoffs continue to decline, there are still more than twice as many people being laid off compared to January and February, before the economic shutdown began, and more than the weekly average during the worst of the Great Recession in 2009.
There are still more than 46,000 Vermonters receiving unemployment benefits. But that is also less than the week before and 40% fewer than the peak of 76,500 at the end of April. That means 30,000 Vermonters are now back at work.
The number of self-employed Vermonters eligible for the special Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program continues to hold steady. Despite the fears that tens of thousands of self-employed people would be seeking assistance because their business income had vanished, only about 16,000 Vermonters are receiving benefits under that program, a number that hasn’t changed much over the past seven weeks.
As the governor continues to relax restrictions on economic and other activity, the number of layoffs will continue to fall as will the number of people receiving unemployment benefits. But that number will not get back to what it was in early 2020 any time soon.
Until people are convinced that it is safe to congregate in stores, restaurants, and other gathering places, no matter how government policies change, business activity will remain below normal. That means fewer workers will be needed and unemployment will remain elevated.
— Art Woolf