Latest on labor market as workforce adapts to pandemic changes

The labor market looks a lot different today than when the pandemic first began.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 5:50 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The labor market looks a lot different today than when the pandemic first began.

Vermont’s unemployment rate for February is 2.8%, nearly identical to last February’s 2.7%.

From January to February there was an increase in waste services, arts and entertainment, and private education services.

Statewide, retail saw an increase in February.

Common Deer in Burlington has 10 employees, a number owner Sarah Beal says has been consistent since last fall.

She said the last few months, the number of applications has increased creeping up to pre-pandemic levels.

“There were a lot more maybe college kids looking for part-time work. And that that group of applicants is kind of changed all the time. And I think maybe there that interest is coming back,” said Beal.

Beal also serves on the Marketplace Commission. She says among other Church Street retailers, there’s a general consensus that staffing challenges have eased.

“I think that some things that have been learned about what people want out of jobs, they realized that maybe retail is actually a great spot for them to exercise, seeing people being around customers and really working on their sales strategies and everything,” said Beal.

Vermont Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington says statewide, the labor force overall isn’t where they like it to be, but it’s showing signs of being on the right track.

“There’s still high demand for goods and services. And I think that the challenge or the thing we hear most often from employers is that they could do more if they had more staff, and so they could offer more services,” said Harrington.

He says many employers are becoming more flexible, like taking two part-time individuals instead of only looking for full-time staff.

March marks month three of the minimum wage increase of 63 cents to $13.18 an hour.

Harrington says they don’t have specific data on how many businesses are offering minimum wage. He says industries like public education and health care-related sectors are more likely to be at or near the minimum wage right now.

“What we’re also knowing is that just by looking at jobs that are available out there is that most or at least a couple dollars higher than minimum wage, if not significantly higher than minimum wage,” said Harrington.

Harrington says there are around 20,000 jobs available. Recent federal revisions of their own data show Vermont’s labor force lost around 7,000 to 10,000 people, smaller than the 25,000 number that was originally presented.

Harrington said many left the workforce because of retirement and early retirement, emphasizing that aging labor is a big challenge in the workforce here.