Counting Vermont’s Unemployed

April 21, 2020

By David Flemming

                The ranks of Vermont’s unemployed have swelled in recent weeks as workers have sought to file claims after seeing their jobs disappeared due to COVID-19. Just two weeks ago, nearly 10,000 new Vermonters filed for unemployment. This was nearly 20 times the number of new claims filed a month ago. However, that 10,000 number was actually lower than either of the two weeks prior, over 14,000 for the week ending on March 28 and about 16,500 for the week ending on April 4.

                For each of the past 4 recorded weeks, most of those who initially filed claims have been forced to stay on unemployment, though a few have been able to find other jobs. As a result, the total number of unemployed folks has risen each week.

                How high are our “unemployment compensation claims” as a portion of Vermont’s workforce, relative to other states? 12.1% of Vermont’s workforce is unemployed, which is 18th most in the country. This figure matches Mass., and is better than New York (15.9%), New Hampshire (13.5%), Rhode Island (17%). We are doing worse than Conn. (11.8%) and Maine (9.9%).

                On the bright side, our unemployment insurance trust fund is sitting pretty at #1 in the country. The Tax Foundation calculated that Vermont could afford to pay out unemployment for two and a half years!  This stands in stark contrast to our ranking on funding our pension plans. Vermont only 64% funded as of 2019, a number that is sure to decline after investment opportunities for high returns dry up in the aftermath of COVID-19.

                While monitoring the number of new cases and deaths from COVID-19 is important, so too is monitoring Vermont’s employment situation. Our government has an obligation to consider both lives and livelihoods as they consider when to reopen our great state.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

SONJA KENNETH BLODGETT April 24, 2020 at 9:20 pm

There are plenty of available jobs in Vermont but it seems like no one really wants them because some are making more money sitting at home. Every hospital, nursing home, are looking for medical staff of all types, housekeeping, laundry, janitorial, maintenance, kitchen. Even the grocery store is short on help. There is plenty of work for the young. healthy working class!


doug richmond April 25, 2020 at 3:20 am

Please don’t be fooled by calling only the number of those on unemployment benefits – as the only ones unemployed.

Single craftsmen with no work – are just as unemployed as the guy laid off from a 50 person business.

The proud worker – who has saved some means – may have vowed to stay off the “dole”

Small business owners have only recently been able but have to reveal every aspect of business to comply.

Worst of all is the combined state and federal $benefits may be more than the worker can earn – so stay unemployed as long as you can.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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