Report says Vermont’s labor force shrinking

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(Host) A recent jobs report from the state Labor Department says Vermont’s labor force is shrinking.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, there’s debate among analysts about the significance of the declines.

(Sneyd) The Labor Department says slightly fewer than 357,000 people were in Vermont’s labor force in August.

That’s down from the same time last year, and it’s a decline of 6,800 from the peak in December.

Labor Commissioner Patricia Moulton Powden says the labor force is the way government measures the number of people who have a job or who are looking for a job.

She says changes in the numbers can show trends, which she believes this month’s report does.

(Powden) Clearly the trends are showing a reduction in the labor force which tends to fit with the demographic shifts that we’re seeing due to the aging of our labor force.

(Sneyd) That’s why the Douglas administration is trying to lure more young people to Vermont to take jobs or start companies.

The Economic Development Department and 20 Vermont companies held a networking event earlier this week in Boston.

It was targeted at people who went to college in Vermont or have other connections with the state and might want to move back.

About 75 people showed up and found job prospects with the Vermont companies.

Burlington policy analyst Doug Hoffer says his concern is there aren’t enough jobs being created, regardless of the size of the labor force.

(Hoffer) There is a dramatic difference between the 1990s and what’s happened since the recession and you’ve heard it in major media, from big-time economists all over the place: This is the jobless recovery.

(Sneyd) Hoffer describes job growth in Vermont as anemic, but he concedes it’s not much better in other parts of the country.

He suggests the state needs to recraft its economic development strategies.

The Douglas administration says it already has and believes its focus on attracting younger workers will eventually bear fruit.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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