3-10-16 – What A Difference A Year Makes!

By Chris Campion

Nothing succeeds like success!  Or, it does if you’re Annie Noonan, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor, and your job is to cheerlead mediocrity.  Since Vermont has such a low unemployment number, even when bad weather (from the ski industry’s point of view) makes for fewer of those high-paying seasonal service jobs, Annie’s here to tell that there’s a silver lining to the unemployment cloud:

January 26, 2016:  “The lack of snow directly impacted the number of jobs in Vermont in December.  People who had been hired by employers in the leisure and hospitality sector were laid off when the snow didn’t arrive as expected, and ski lifts were idled, hotel rooms weren’t booked, and restaurants weren’t serving the winter-season visitors.  As such, the December employment data had notable employment loss; fortunately, the situation is turning around, and many of those laid off workers are now back to work.  Vermont employers are still hiring, and job training programs and internships are available for many Vermonters.  The Department of Labor encourages anyone looking for work or a career change to visit one of our 12 regional career centers.”

Well.  Vermont employers are still hiring.  Great news!  So what kind of jobs are they hiring for?  Before answering that question, let’s look at Vermont’s 2015 economic performance from an employee point of view.  Meaning someone who’s actively looking for work:

Hey, unemployment's lower! But, um, so are the employed. Oh.

Hm.  The Total column represents Vermont’s burgeoning labor force.  So there’s roughly 5,000 fewer people actively seeking employment in Vermont in December 2015 than there was in January 2015.

As the unemployment column shows, about 5,000 fewer people were unemployed in December 2015 than there were in January 2015.  So how can the unemployment number drop from 4.6% to 3.1% in 12 months, if those two numbers are the same?

Answer:  Because the overall employment number is almost exactly the same.  330,000 people were employed in January 2015, and 330,000 people were employed in December 2015.  Net new employment is all of 100 people.

That’s it.  That’s the Shumlin administration’s 2015 job creation record.  100 net new jobs.

What industries were able to reap this whirlwind harvest of jobs?  What businesses could absorb this upwelling of employment?  Well, government, mostly, and health care & social assistance.  In other words, taxpayer-supported jobs, not private-sector jobs, the jobs that provide the tax revenues to support the public sector.

Feel the economic...burn?

And how is Annie Noonan’s boss, Peter Shumlin, addressing this massive job crisis in the Green Mountain State?  Oh, he’s telling businesses to divest from the coal and gas industries:

MONTPELIER – February 3, 2016 – Gov. Peter Shumlin stood with Vermont business and education leaders today who support his call for Vermont to use divestment as a tool to help combat global warming. The Governor made the call in his State of the State address earlier this year for Vermont to follow California’s lead in divesting state pension funds from coal assets. The Governor also urged that the state go further and divest from ExxonMobil assets.

So, in short, the governor manages to eke out 100 new jobs in 12 months, and then he’s telling businesses how they should run their asset portfolio.  This from the same guy who’s crashing the state’s budget on an annual basis before slinking out of office at the end of 2016.  As others have noted, submitting revenue estimates with 6% growth rates – when the historical trends are half that number – seems like a less than intelligent way to formulate next-year budgets.

The first consensus revenue forecast Shumlin saw as governor in January 2011 predicted that general fund revenues would grow by close to 6 percent in the following two years. In general, forecasts have fallen since then.

This was catastrophically bad financial planning, and only a fool would assume doubled growth rates based on no reason whatsoever.

Which leaves me one question:  I wonder if Shumlin will have another 100 jobs to take credit for in 11 months, on his way out the door?

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