Employment Down, Wages Flat, Help Waning
Although Vermont’s unemployment rate remains relatively low, the slow but steady drop in the number of Vermonters working continued for the fourth consecutive month. In June, the number of employed fell by 450; since February, that number has dropped by more than 1,700. June’s unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7 percent from 4.6 percent in May. The change was not deemed statistically significant by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but it was the first rate increase registered in Vermont in two and a half years.
Inflation Still Beating Wage Gains
Average annual wages in most of Vermont’s 14 counties rose in 2011. Statewide, the average annual wage increased 2.2 percent over the previous year. But after adjusting for inflation, pay almost everywhere in Vermont has remained flat since 2007, just before the recession hit. In fact, real wages—after adjusting for inflation—fell a fraction in Chittenden, Windham, and Windsor counties. A few counties saw notable gains: Franklin, 5.2 percent between 2007 and 2011; Washington, 3.6 percent, and Orleans, 3.1 percent.
Lower Joblessness, Less Help for the Jobless
In the depths of the recession, laid-off Vermonters could qualify for up to 86 weeks of unemployment compensation, thanks largely to federal programs that provided extended benefits. But as the state’s unemployment rate has dropped, so has eligibility for the extra help from Washington. Currently, jobless Vermonters may be eligible to receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment compensation through the regular state program and an additional 20 weeks through a federal program, Tier 1.