Some of those who constitute our quasi-fearless leadership in Montpelier are quick to cite relatively low unemployment numbers as demonstration of how well Vermont is doing. Or they’ll tout some state GDP statistics without actually speaking about trends or comparisons, which really doesn’t tell you anything about the numbers they’re speaking about – it just tells you that they want you to think that they’re doing a great job, and that things are just percolating right along
here in the Green Mountains, economically speaking.
To this end, Peter Shumlin recently gave some details as to how well manufacturing is doing in VT. He gave some static figures – but he did not detail any trends, nor did he offer comparisons to, say, other states. Without that context, the numbers he gives are meaningless. If I say “We have 8,000 manufacturing jobs in VT!”, is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Without context, that statement could mean anything at all.
From Peter’s website where details about how fantastic the state is doing are in no short supply, here’s a wee nugget:
Manufacturing contributes about 11.1% or $2.9 billion (in Year 2009) of Vermont’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
That sounds great! Billions sound like a lot of money to this native Vermonter. But let’s break it down a bit:
In 2009, state GDP was $24.247B. $2.9B in manufacturing is roughly 11% of GDP. To keep the GDP number in context, the state’s Education spending, at $2.29B, is 9.4% of GDP. Essentially, the state spends on education an equivalent to almost all of Vermont’s manufacturing output.
For a more historical perspective, let’s look at the actual number of Vermonters employed in Manufacturing. As it turns out, total employment in the Manufacturing sector is down from 40,500 in 2002 to 30,900 in 2011 – a roughly 25% decrease in the number of manufacturing positions.
This is good news? Does Peter need someone on his staff who can use Excel?
Let’s take a look at the rest of the sectors – deltas are between the years 2002 and 2011 (date taken straight outta Compton, er, www.bls.gov – some clicking required):
Mining and logging: Down from 1,000 to 800 – a 20% decrease.
Construction: Down from 14,800 to 13,700 – a 7.4% decrease.
Trade, Transportation, and Utilities: Down from 58,800 to 56,400 – a 4% decrease.
Information: Down from 6,700 to 5,000 – a 25.1% decrease.
Financial Activities: Down from 13,200 to 12,100 – an 8.3% decrease (I guess it’s hard to work in financial activities if there’s no financial activity going on).
Leisure and Hospitality: Down from 33,000 to 32,700 – a 1% decrease.
But it’s not all bad, is it?
Professional and Business Services: Up from 20,300 to 24,900 – a 23% increase.
Education and Health Services: Up from 50,100 to 60,200 – a 20.2% increase.
Government: Up from 50,800 to 53,100 – a 4.5% increase.
So let’s see here, let me do the math…if I was a high school senior in Vermont, and/or a college senior, expecting to enter the workforce soon, where would the best opportunities lie? In those sectors that actually produce the goods and services people use, or the sectors that takes the taxes earned in those sectors and spend them on increasing the size and scope of their own sectors?
Is there any doubt as to which side of the equation Shumlin finds the bulk of his voters? Better yet, is it any wonder why he’s so happy to celebrate “manufactured” good news?