The Vermont Department of Labor periodically publishes short-term employment projections, to highlight where the employment growth sectors are likely to be in Vermont, and includes an industry breakdown as well. Since Peter Shumlin likes to tout economic data as evidence that Vermont is a “great” place for jobs, let’s let his words do the talking:
“With the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, we need to make sure people know that we have great jobs in Vermont – and lots of them,” the Governor said at a news conference at the Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. Beverage Technology Center in Waterbury.
Well. Peter happily ignores the raft of other information at his fingertips regarding Vermont’s employment outlook, because it might demonstrate a certain lack of greatness for Vermonters seeking to work and live here.
What jobs will have the most openings, based on the Dept. of Labor’s statistics? Rankings are based on the total number of expected openings in 2015:
Cashiers. Retail. Fast food. Waiters and Waitresses. The only occupation in the top ten that requires a college degree is #6, Registered Nurses, which means we have population growth in hospitals, not economic growth. Personal care aides is growing because of Vermont’s demographics, which features not a youthful and vibrant dominant cohort, buying homes and starting families, but rather the largest growth sector is in retirees – a fact that also helps keep our workforce participation rate low, which has the political benefit of making the unemployment rate artificially low.
Shumlin can tour the state and tell reporters that Vermont’s a great place to work, but that’s so unabashedly untrue as to barely pass the laugh test. Vermont’s native college-educated graduates leave the state at record levels. Why? Take a look at the list of projected occupational growth rates in the chart above and you’ll understand why. Peter understands that too, which is why he never gets into specifics, other than to tout the one or two companies that are doing well, and have a public presence. But even companies like Keurig/Green Mountain aren’t growing their footprint here, and in fact their next plant will be built in Georgia – the state, not the Vermont town – as that company expands into cold beverages.
As Peter said, “we have great jobs in Vermont – and lots of them”. Really? How’s the 11-30 ranking looking?
The reality is that the state’s largest private-sector industry is tourism, followed closely by retail, and neither industry is known for high-paying jobs. What does not dominate the job scene are manufacturing, technical, financial, or other traditionally higher-paying occupations. If you leave Chittenden County, the job conditions just get worse. Compare the income and population growth numbers between Chittenden County and Rutland County, or the fact that Rutland County has 50% more residents over the age of 65 than Chittenden County does (as just one example) and the picture that emerges is not one of a vibrant and growing Vermont economy. It is quite the opposite, but these numbers are not the things you’ll hear spoken into a microphone when Shumlin is in public.
Oh, and the BEA ranks Vermont 50th for Total Personal Income. Dead. Last. Even with a 33% increase in personal current transfer payments from 2003 to 2013 (which includes “Government payments to individuals includes retirement and disability insurance benefits, medical benefits (mainly Medicare and Medicaid), income maintenance benefits, unemployment insurance compensation, veterans benefits, and Federal education and training assistance.”) . Which means we have the fewest dollars, nationally, in income.
In other words, Shumlin’s legacy is of decreasing opportunity, reduced incomes, and demographic and economic trendlines all heading in the wrong direction. This is what he’s going to hang his hat on when he runs for a vacant US Senate seat. The more Vermonters realize what Shumlin’s really been responsible for, the more likely their economic opportunity improves – but until that time, we will be on the receiving end of more of the same.