HILARY NILES, VTDigger.org
December brought good news and bad news for Vermont’s jobs picture: The unemployment rate dropped again, but so did the labor force.
Among the people who consider themselves ready and willing to work, more of them were employed in December than in recent months. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains among the lowest in the nation, at just 4.2 percent compared to a national average of 6.7 percent.
But fewer people consider themselves ready and willing to work. Vermont’s labor force lost about 950 people in December, dropping to 349,900 -- the lowest in 35 years, according to state economist Tom Kavet.
"This serves to lower the unemployment rate, but underscores the exceptionally weak employment growth that has characterized this recovery," Kavet wrote in his January report to the Legislature.
The reasons for the decline could range from retirement to layoffs to giving up hope. Business leaders and some economists have expressed concern in recent weeks over the continuing decline.
But Kavet and his counterpart, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s economist Jeff Carr, saw early indicators of improvements on their horizon. Their consensus forecast in early January predicted modest gains this year, and stronger growth in 2015.
Department of Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan recognizes that many residents continue to look for jobs -- or better jobs -- even as the state’s economy slowly recovers.