Unemployment up in Vermont; more entering the workforce

BENNINGTON - Vermont's unemployment rate has risen again for the fifth straight month, according to state officials.

The Vermont Department of Labor announced Tuesday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Vermont for October increased by a tenth of a percent from September, to 5.5 percent. Although it has increased in five straight months, officials said the state's seasonally-adjusted rate continues to remain far below the national average of 7.9 percent, which also rose by a tenth of a percent from the previous month.

The total labor force increased for the second straight month. According to the Labor Department, the seasonally adjusted data for Vermont in October showed that the total labor force increased by 900 from September to 358,200 workers. Total employment increased by 700, while total unemployment increased by 200. None of those changes were considered statistically significant, however.

The October unemployment rates in Vermont's 17 labor market areas ranged from a low of 3.3 percent in Hartford to a high of 6.2 percent in Newport and Rutland. In the Bennington market, unemployment decreased to 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in September. That rate is half a percent lower than October 2011.

Bennington County Industrial Corp. Executive Director Peter Odierna said the drop in the Bennington area labor market was not due to any single company hiring a larger number of workers. He said a host of companies have added positions here and there.

The continuing improvement in the housing market should bode well for companies like Vermont Timber Frames, which is poised to hire, Odierna said. "Hopefully, that will lead to more job opportunities over there as we close out this year and into next year," he said. Mathew Barewicz, labor market information chief for the Vermont Department of Labor, said Vermont and other states are looking to decipher jobs numbers to explain where the economy is heading. "This is not been your typical recession, which is why it's got the moniker the Great Recession," he said.

The data suggests that younger people have looked to re-enter the job market over the summer, expanding the total work force. At the same time, older people are staying in the job market longer than ever before, Barewicz said. Additionally, a large number of middle-aged workers are leaving the work force. He said many of them may have taken jobs as secondary income during the recession.

The uptick in Vermont's unemployment rate over the past five months is not preferable, Barewicz said. However, it is indicative that many people are feeling optimistic about the economy, he said.

"We're excited that young people are trying to re-enter the labor force. That's a good sign. When people are hearing positive news they start entering the labor force," he said. "I don't think anyone likes to see the unemployment rate rising, and I don't think people like the idea of people not being able to find work."

The job market may also be steadying itself after a precipitous fall in the state's unemployment rate that reached a low of 4.8 percent earlier this year, according to Barewicz. "I think in some ways it could be the model just re-balancing," he said.


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