One very simple way of telling how well the state’s economy is doing is by looking at gross job gains and gross job losses, with the net result being how well the state’s doing in generating more jobs than it’s losing.
Our handy data-gatherers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics has this available, and here’s what Vermont looks like, from 2003 to 2014. The blue line is private sector gains, the red line is private sector losses:
Basically, you never want the red line above the blue line, else you’re shedding jobs, like during a recession. Job losses in 2012 seemed to stabilize, but in 2013 they’ve shot up, now outpacing job gains – again – at least as far as 2013 data takes us.
Contrast this reality with the “good news” Peter Shumlin routinely posts on his taxpayer-supported website, which seems to enjoy a) ignoring 2013 data entirely, because it’s a snapshot of Q4 2012, and b) blames job losses on “large forces beyond our control”. In other words, it’s not Peter’s fault. Even though he takes credit for the low unemployment rate number, which has been shown to be a result of declining labor force participation, not job growth. (I guess that is his fault when he thinks it’s something good?) If you click on the “Jobs by Industry” tab on the governor’s site, it tells you all you need to know about Shumlin’s idea of what constitutes a healthy economy, because the largest employment sector in the state is government. The part that produces nothing, and only takes from the productive sector. The next highest employment sector is retail, and that should also tell you something about Vermont’s economy.
Well, let’s look at what BLS data tells us:
Private sector employment is up from Q32012 – Q32013. Brace yourself. It’s up .1%.
State government, from Q32012 – Q32013? Up 1.6%
So yes, from Peter’s perspective, everything’s fine, and unemployment is low, so that
can’t be a problem, either. When state government grows at rates that are multiples of the private sector, everything is upside down, and the only reason the state is afloat is because 1/3 of the state’s budget comes from federal dollars. That is the only reason the state is not bankrupt – that and the state does not consider its unfunded pension liabilities to be just that: liabilities.
What Peter sees as being fine and dandy, the rest of the state that does not work for him sees layoffs and reduced expansion plans, decades of permitting hassles that scare away new businesses, an onerous tax climate that puts Vermont 45th worst of the 50 states, and an economic outlook that virtually guarantees Vermont’s younger demographic will leave Vermont in order to start their careers, buy homes, and live their lives.
In other words, Peter seems quite happy with the status quo – a slowly sinking ship
that he must hope won’t sink beneath his feet before he can move on to bigger and better things, like a seat in the US Senate.