Encouraging Signs Even As Vermont Jobless Numbers Tick Up

11/21/12 5:50PM By Steve Zind
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Figures announced this week show an uptick in the Vermont unemployment rate, but those who watch the numbers caution it's too early to call it a trend. 

They also cite other figures which show the economy is growing.   

The Labor Department announced this week that Vermont's unemployment rate ticked up 1/10 of one percent in October, from 5.4 to 5.5 percent.  

That's the 5th straight month of increases since May's low of 4.6 percent. 

Economist Art Woolf says if the rate continues to rise for the next few months it will be a cause for concern, but he takes the current figures with a grain of salt.

He says the small data set and method used to calculate the Vermont unemployment rate is less accurate than the big numbers that go into compiling the national figure.

Woolf says he looks at other numbers to get a clearer picture of which way Vermont's economy is headed. 

So does Paul Cillo of the Public Assets Institute, who finds some good news in this week's numbers.     

Cillo says they show more Vermonters are entering the workforce, which could be an indication that people who had stopped looking for work are now feeling more hopeful about the economy. Earlier this year, Vermont's labor force was shrinking.

Economist Woolf says he isn't convinced the number of people in the labor force will return to previous levels because of the state's aging population.

There is another report that both Cillo and Woolf say is encouraging.

Recently released figures show a net increase of more than 4,500 jobs in Vermont for the 12 month period beginning in March of 2011. That's a growth of 1.5 percent, which surprises Woolf.

"1.5 percent is a fairly strong number Vermont," he says. "I think the underlying employment growth is probably closer to .8 or .9, so this 1.5 is fairly surprising because it's so high."

Woolf says unlike unemployment estimates the job growth figure is based on comprehensive information from employers, so it's much more accurate. 

Paul Cillo is also pleased with the 12 month job growth number.

"That was encouraging to see that we're actually starting to make up for the losses that were a result of the recession," he says. " We lost something in the neighborhood of 13,000 jobs as a result of the recession and we haven't made all those up yet."

Cillo says while encouraging Vermont's job growth remains slow

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