Fewer Vermonters are Working or Seeking Work
Both the labor force and the number of Vermonters working decreased for the third consecutive month in May. The official unemployment rate remained unchanged because the number of unemployed workers declined along with the overall labor force. At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a net increase of 3,300 jobs in the state in May. This number—at odds with the trend in the state labor force data—could be inaccurate this month.
Unemployment: Worse than it looks
Vermont’s traditional unemployment rate (U-3) remains one of the lowest in the country and the second lowest in New England. However, this figure measures only the total unemployed as a percentage of the total labor force; it does not include workers who have given up job seeking and part-time workers who would prefer to work more. The U-6 rate, an alternative measure of unemployment, includes discouraged and part-time workers. Vermont’s “real” unemployment rate is about double its official rate. By this broader measure, Vermont ranked second lowest in New England and eighth lowest nationally for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2012.
Doubling down on jobs
It’s not clear why Vermont’s unemployment rate is consistently below the national average, in good times and bad. Vermonters working two or more jobs may be a factor. There’s a statistical correlation, albeit a weak one, between a higher percentage of multiple jobholders and lower unemployment rates in a state. Vermont continues to lead New England in the percentage of workers with at least two jobs, and ranks fourth nationally.
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