Source: 2015 ACS 5-Year Estimates
This chart illustrates the distribution of workforce around the state, and within each county the age distribution. Vermont has a high proportion of workers over 55, and strong participation in the workforce from people over 65. The quantity of younger workers available to ‘backfill’ those heading towards retirement, however, is low particularly outside Chittenden County.
As much of the nation’s population ages, the percentage of the population participating in the workforce is trending down. Vermont has a high proportion of its year-round residents in the workforce, however the proportion is falling as the so-called “baby boomer” generation moves into retirement. The downward trend is expected to continue as those who deferred retirement due to the recession finally leave employment. In Vermont, net in-migration favors older cohorts, leaving the state’s workforce particularly vulnerable to a supply shortage in the coming decade.
These five year estimates do not reflect the most recent quarterly unemployment data which has seen much of Vermont’s unemployment dropping to very low levels. Much of Vermont has seen rates in the range of 3% and 4% during 2016. This data is useful for an overview of unemployment as it affects distinct geographic areas and age cohorts in different ways. Youth unemployment has been relatively high and workforce participation from young adults relatively low in contrast with very high levels among older Vermonters.
Trending well below national averages, Vermont’s official unemployment rate has dipped below a level which traditionally represents “full employment”. 2017 saw Vermont reach 3% unemployment statewide. Long term unemployment statistics (the “U-6” is at 6.1%) indicate many Vermonters may be out of work. Very low unemployment numbers correlate with employers struggling to find available workers in sufficient numbers, and also to find candidates well-matched in training or ability to fill key positions.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
This past year saw the New England labor force as a whole grow 2.3%, showing strong growth when compared with 0.5% nationally . Massachusetts accounts for much of that growth with a 4.4% increase in its labor force from 2017 to 2018. In the same time frame, Vermont’s labor force increased by 0.6%.