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Vt. unemployment rate up

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"You always have to take these numbers with a grain of salt," economist Art Woolf said.

Vermont's unemployment rate for June is the fourth lowest in the nation, with only the Dakotas and Nebraska coming in lower. Even with a modest uptick, it may seem positive. June's rate came in at 4.4-percent; May was 4.1. But Woolf says the numbers need a closer look.

"It didn't tell us anything new," Woolf said. "It's basically a continuation of what we've seen over the last six-to-twelve months."

Woolf says the increase may be because of the way the state calculates the number, surveying employers, the workforce and people at home. He says looking at long-term trends paints a more accurate picture. IBM's 419 recent job cuts are not factored into the new unemployment rate. Woolf says we may not see that impact until August-- or ever-- in the state's overall unemployment rate.

"That's a big jump, but on the other hand, it's much lower than we've seen in the last few years other than a few months earlier this year," he said.

"Right now, it's appearing this year is following last year's trend where we have a temporary rise in the unemployment rate. But ultimately, I think things are still stable for the Vermont economy and are still showing positive signs for improvement over 2012," said Mathew Barewicz, the economic and labor market information chief for the Vermont Department of Labor.

Reporter Gina Bullard: It sounds like great news.

Art Woolf: It's only because there's no one here to work!

But it's not an entirely rosy picture. The graying of the Green Mountains is in full swing. Since the recession, growth in Vermont's labor market has ended.

"Since 2010, just as the economy was recovering, our labor force has been plummeting. Not just falling, but falling dramatically," Woolf said.

Barowicz counters, saying that presents good job options for younger Vermonters.

"So, as a state, we are certainly getting older. That does present a lot of opportunities for young people as individuals are migrating out of the workforce," Barowicz said.

Gina Bullard: What does that mean for the state?

Art Woolf: Uhh, not good. It means all sorts of things.

Woolf says employers are struggling to find skilled workers. The growth in tax revenues will be lower and fewer people will be spending money.

"Businesses are going to have a hard time finding customers, housing market implications," Woolf said. "Multiplier effects as we call it, it's going to spread throughout the economy over time."

Woolf expects this pattern of a dwindling labor market to continue for the foreseeable future.

Click here for the full unemployment report from the Department of Labor.

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