Vermont’s semi-favorite son and quitting Governor Peter Shumlin will, in the space of a year and a half or so, probably be shopping around his “legacy” with a hand out, looking for a job. So let’s take a quick look at Vermont’s employment picture, since Peter routinely brags about Vermont’s low unemployment rate, and we’ll use, oh, let’s just go ahead and use North Carolina because I live here now.
In comparing Vermont’s data to another state, we’ll see how Peter stacks up against something other than himself. Let’s start at the top, with the Unemployment Rate – remember, the calculation for the unemployment rate is:
Number of Unemployed / Labor Force
As an example, if you have 5,000 people unemployed, and your labor force is 100,000, that’s 5% unemployment. But note – if you have 4,500 people unemployed (a reduction in the total unemployed), and your labor force shrinks to 99,000, your unemployment rate drops to 4.5%. Fewer people are unemployed, but more than that number are no longer in the labor force, which has the happy (political) result of reducing the unemployment rate:
So let’s look at the Unemployment Rate, NC on the left, VT on the right, for the past 10 years (data from BLS.gov):
Both states follow the same percentage arcs, although North Carolina’s rate was significantly higher than Vermont’s (and continues to be slightly higher), and has also hit a slight uptick in early 2015. Does that mean that Vermont and North Carolina are roughly the same, in terms of employment outlook?
Not exactly. Let’s take a look at the Labor Force detail, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics describes as:
Basically, this is everyone working and everyone who could work but is looking for a job (actively looked in the last 4 weeks). Obviously, North Carolina has a much larger population than Vermont (9.9 million to 626,000) , but we’re looking for trends here, not a specific numerical comparison – and the trend is obvious:
North Carolina now has close to 500,000 more people in the workforce than it did in 2005. There are some ups and downs, but the trend is obviously positive. If you look at 1/2011, the date of Shumlin’s inauguration, there’s roughly 4,600,000 in NC’s labor force. By 1/2015, it’s at 4,750,000 – an increase of about 150,000 in four years.
Vermont’s labor force? It’s at the same number as it was in 2005. 10 years of “growth” have netted a labor force that grew and shrunk back to the level it was 10 years ago. Granted, Shumlin came into the governor’s office in January of 2011, near the peak of Vermont’s labor force. But it has declined steadily ever since he was inaugurated. Roughly 10,000 fewer people are in Vermont’s labor force since Shumlin was inaugurated, and the lower that number is, the lower the unemployment rate becomes – so, insanely, the reduction in the number of Vermonters working contributed to one of Shumlin’s primary economic selling points, the lower unemployment rate.
Now let’s look at Employment itself:
Vermont was already in a downturn when the recession hit in 2007 (officially the recession ended in 2009), but it’s still roughly at exactly the same number it was 10 years ago. Compared to North Carolina, Vermont’s 10-year performance is almost perfectly flat; North Carolina has added something like 450,000 employed in the same period. That’s 100,000 more employed than Vermont’s entire workforce.
Note that Shumlin, coming into office in January 2011, has managed to be the Governor who’s watched the state’s numbers decline from what looked like a mini-recovery in 2011 to levels below the low mark in 2005, when it dropped below 335,000 in 2014/2015:
Shumlin’s not going to be running for governor again, which is probably a reflection on his policies he’s implemented that have contributed to the slow-rolling death of Vermont’s economy. These policies look like they came home to roost in the 2014 elections that he won by only a few thousand votes. Those votes, or lack of them, speaks to the average Vermonter’s ability to see through his administration’s talking points to the reality felt on the ground, out in the real world, outside of Montpelier. The real world, and its future, looking like something less than paradise, and something more like rampant abandonment.