Source: 2015 American Community Survey 5-year
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 labor force participation, or share of people working, is trending down. Vermont has a high proportion of its year-round residents in the workforce but the proportion is falling as a large number of people move into retirement. The downward trend is expected to continue, as some who deferred retirement because of the recession finally leave employment, and net in-migration to Vermont is favoring older cohorts.
Source: 2009-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
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”. 2016 saw Vermont approaching nearly 3% statewide. Long term unemployment statistics (the “U6” is at 8.4%) 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. The 2016 data is from the Vermont Department of Labor using September seasonally adjusted rates. For updates on unemployment data the BLS or VT DOL web sites are the best source.
Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island are all seeing workforce shrinkage. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut are seeing workforce growth, but are beginning to experience shortages against demand.