Governor Peter Shumlin, fresh from seeing an unemployment number he liked without understanding it, or, more likely, purposefully ignored the underlying data, didn’t miss his opportunity to once again lie to Vermonters about how great the Vermont economy is doing. In case you missed it, because you were overloaded with requests from local headhunters looking to place highly-skilled workers in much-demanded, high-paying jobs immediately, Vermont’s economy is like, totally rebounding! Yes, watch out, Charles Barkley – Vermont is the new Round Mound of Economic Rebound! But let’s let the governor’s own words spill from his wise and sainted lips:
– The news today of another drop in the Vermont’s unemployment rate, to 4.1 percent, is further proof that the state’s economy continues to rebound from the worst recession in our memory.
No, it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite. Total Nonfarm employment went down from Feb to March – a net loss of 1,800 jobs. Why isn’t Shumlin waving his “hooray!” flag around the state from the confines of a taxpayer-subsidized electric car for this data point? Is he afraid he’ll drive past an unemployed person’s house?
Sadly, the real reason the unemployment rate went down is the same reason Vermont’s rate is typically low in the first place: Vermont has a relatively low participation rate in the workforce. From Vermont’s DOL website:
Civ Labor Force: 351,650
Unemployment rate: 4.1%
But Vermont’s workforce participation breakdown is:
State Population 626,000
Workforce participation rate (working/population): 53.8%
National Labor Participation Rate (From BLS) 63.3%
Vermont has a much lower labor force than the national average, which means that there are fewer people chasing jobs – and that keeps the unemployment number tamped down, even when the state experiences net job losses, as it did last month. The number of diminishing participants is larger than the number of net jobs lost – numbers which essentially negate each other’s impact. Amazingly, Shumlin is stating that net job losses are an example of how well Vermont’s economy is doing. Why doesn’t anyone ask him that question?
Vermont also has a higher proportion of people over 65 than the national average, which means that Vermont will have (and continue to have, considering its low birth rate) a smaller and smaller labor force. This will mean the unemployment number will continue to follow this same dismal pattern, enabling politicians like Shumlin to follow their own same, dismal pattern.
As everyone but Shumlin knows, a low unemployment rate does not equate to higher wages, a better standard of living, income mobility, or a fresh plate of tacos. Everyone could be employed at, say, a travel agency for college students, but only make $9.30 an hour. I guess those kinds of lucrative jobs are creating a surge of transplants from other states, seeking those golden employment opportunities? Vermont is 36th nationally for median household income, and, oh, a host of distressing data points already covered here. But please, let Peter continue:
– Vermont now has the third lowest unemployment rate in the country and the strongest job market in the region, reflecting what I’m hearing from business owners as I travel the state.
Again, the stat the governor should be touting, but can’t because it doesn’t exist, is net new job growth. Unemployment, in this instance, is not an indicator of economic health – job growth is. I’m also guessing that Shumlin is
listening to a very select group of business owners if he thinks Vermont has a strong job market. That statement is perfectly laughable on its face, especially if you’ve done any job-hunting in the last, oh, say, decade.
– While we know the rate will fluctuate up and down over time, the consistent downward trend in recent months shows that employers are hiring and need skilled workers.
As demonstrated above, this “downward trend” summary Shumlin provides is a flat-out lie. Vermont lost net jobs last month. In fact, the “Government” sector also lost 100 jobs.
– We are working hard to ensure Vermonters are qualified to fill those jobs and are connected with the employers who need workers.
This is the worst part: Shumlin actually thinks he’s helping. He actually thinks it’s government’s job to match employers with employees. With a track record like Shumlin’s, any more “help” from the government will be the straw that breaks the Vermonter’s back. The last thing any business needs is help from a governor who seems to be pushing forward with multiple policies that hinder business growth, not encourage it.
Is this really the guy you want helping you?