Uncovering real VT unemployment: Shumlin touts lowest numbers


UNEMPLOYMENT UNCOVERED: Vermont’s real unemployment rate at 9.4 percent

By Jon Street | Vermont Watchdog

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Gov. Peter Shumlin says the Vermont unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, making it the fifth lowest in the country, but “alternative” data from the state’s own labor department suggest otherwise.

As of Nov. 2013, the most recent month for which data have been made available, the number of people in Vermont’s “non-farm” or “non-agriculture” labor force was just 309,200, according to the Vermont Department of Labor. That number, according to University of Vermont economist Arthur Woolf, is the actual number of workers who were listed on employee payrolls during the same month.

But according to the Labor Department’s “official” numbers, Vermont’s labor force in Jan. 2011 (when Shumlin assumed office) consisted of 360,150 people and the state unemployment rate that month stood at 6 percent, according to the Vermont Department of Labor. In Nov. 2013, the number of people in Vermont’s labor force had dropped to 350,800 and the unemployment rate had decreased to 4.4 percent.

However, the 4.4-percent unemployment rate as touted by Shumlin only accounts for those who are unemployed and looking for work. It doesn’t consider the number of people who are unemployed but have stopped looking for work. Neither does it account for those who have accepted part-time time work instead of full-time jobs because of economic conditions.

THE WHOLE TRUTH: Shumlin touts Vermont unemployment using ‘alternative’ number

When considering each of those scenarios, Vermont’s unemployment rate is an abysmal 9.4 percent, according to the Vermont Department of Labor.

Even so, Shumlin insists the state’s economy is still on track.

During his annual budget address to the Vermont Legislature last week, Shumlin said, “Good things are happening all across our state. Vermont’s unemployment rate is the fifth lowest in America [officially 4.4 percent], and the lowest this side of the Mississippi.”

When Vermont Watchdog asked the governor’s office for a response to the 9.4 percent unemployment figure, spokeswoman Sue Allen pushed back, “If you want to delve into specific subcategories I can’t do that…I’ll have to have the Department of Labor call you back.”

Vermont Labor Department spokesman Mathew Barewicz said the 9.4 percent unemployment figure is an “alternative” way of measuring unemployment, known as the “U-6,” whereas the formula resulting in 4.4-percent unemployment is known as the “U-3” metric.

“Vermont’s U-6 is well below the national U-6 of 14.1 [percent]. It appears Vermont would be ranked sixth lowest in the country via the U-6 metric,” Barewicz added.

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