Unemployment Rate Ticks Back Up As More People Enter Workforce

The unemployment rate across the Northeast Kingdom and the state ticked back up last month.

The rise was driven largely by more people reentering the workforce while the total number of employed stayed relatively stable. Compared to last year, the NEK has recovered significantly from lows seen during the pandemic but still falls short of typical employment numbers reflected in the June 2019 data.

The latest (not seasonally adjusted) data shows Caledonia County with an unemployment rate of 3.8%, and Essex and Orleans Counties are at 4.3%. The statewide average is 3.5%.

“Unlike the decline, which was sharp and abrupt, the economic recovery continues to slowly gain back what was lost,” said Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington with the release of the latest unemployment report on Friday. “The size of the labor force and the number of filled positions in the Vermont economy continue to grow.”

Statewide 4,800 more people joined the workforce, while the employment rolls added 1,500 people - thus pushing the unemployment number up by roughly a percentage point.

The story was largely the same in the NEK.

Caledonia County added about 140 people to the labor force while reporting 39 fewer people with jobs - pushing the unemployment rate from May’s 2.6% to June’s 3.8%.

There were a total of 13,650 people employed in the county in June, compared to 13,229 in June 2020 during last summer’s gradual reopening from the most significant pandemic restrictions, and to 14,303 in June 2019 - leaving the county with about 650 fewer people employed than before the pandemic. June and July typically have the highest numbers for total employed in Caledonia County.

Orleans County added 460 to the labor force in June and 330 people to the total number employed, pushing the unemployment rate from 3.3% to 4.3%

There were a total of 11,734 people employed in Orleans County, compared to 11,531 in June 2020 and 12,965 in June 2019. The county has 1,200 fewer people employed than before the pandemic.

Essex County added 70 people to the labor force and 30 people to the total employed, pushing the unemployment rate up from 3.3% to 4.3%, just like Orleans County.

There were 2,475 employed in the county in June, compared to 2,423 in June 2020 and 2,675 in June 2019.

The unemployment rate is not for a lack of available jobs across the state, say state officials.

“Vermont businesses are reporting high levels of open positions,” said Harrington. “No matter the job market, finding work can be a full-time job. Even in a good hiring market, job seekers may face challenges that make it difficult to find and accept work.”

According to the Department of Labor job search tool, there are over 200 jobs each in Caledonia County and in close proximity in Coos and Grafton County, N.H., and over 100 jobs total in Orleans and Essex County.

Harrington highlighted assistance for job seekers from the Dept. of Labor’s field staff and offices, some of which have reopened last month to in-person services while others are still virtual. According to the Labor website the St. Johnsbury office has reopened and has walk-in services during certain hours of the week while the Newport office continues to operate virtually.

“These services can assist job seekers in making the right connections with employers and finding successful employment,” said Harrington.

For more information, https://labor.vermont.gov/

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