Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Family Economic Security > Vermont’s labor force hits a 15-year low

Vermont’s labor force hits a 15-year low

In July Vermont’s labor force dropped to its lowest level in 15 years. The labor force comprises people who are employed, including self-employed, and those who are unemployed but actively job hunting. Vermont’s labor force fell to 343,850 last month—the lowest level since July 2002, when it numbered 343,835. The unemployment rate also dropped in July, to 3.1 percent. The decline in the labor force tells us that unemployment shrank not because people found jobs, but because they stopped looking.


New jobs
Even while the workforce shrank, employers added 2,800 jobs in thefirst seven months of this year. The latest annual data show Vermont among the three New England states—behind Massachusetts and New Hampshire—with more non-farm payroll jobs in 2016 than in 2007, before the Great Recession. Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island still have not recovered all the jobs they lost.



Bills pending in Montpelier would increase Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 an hour between 2022 and 2026. But that may not be soon enough. Since 2004 the state’s minimum wage has averaged about two-thirds of the livable wage, as calculated by the Joint Fiscal Office. The livable wage is the hourly pay required for a full-time worker to afford one-half the basic needs—like housing, food, and transportation—of a two-person household with no children and employer-sponsored health insurance. 

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