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Vermont Job Market Not All Doom And Gloom For Men

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Vermont Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan says that although a new report shows high unemployment rates for men 25-54 in Vermont, those numbers are skewed and her department is working hard to improve the job market in the state.

A recent report by the New York Times showed that a significant portion of men ages 25-54 are unemployed. Rates of unemployment for these "prime aged men" are particularly high in several Vermont counties. But some, including Vermont Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan, don’t think the Times data tells the whole story.

The report showed that 55 percent of men in Newport weren’t working, as well as 47 percent in Springfield and up to 37 percent in Burlington. Noonan says that the sample size was too small and actually skewed the data.

“For example, when we look at that data versus what we’re looking at for Newport city, which might show 6.4 percent unemployment, we have 130 unemployed people. It can show you that if you’re pulling data at a small level it can skew it,” Noonan says. She goes on to say that, especially in the Burlington area, they were canvassing a large student population. “You’re going to get a lot of people that aren’t working,” Noonan says. “But they’re not unemployed, because they’re really not looking for work.” Other men who fit under this category and were included in the survey are stay-at-home dads and retirees.

"You're going to get a lot of people that aren't working. But they're not unemployed, because they're really not looking for work." - Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan

The Labor Commissioner also has a problem with the date ranges of the data sample, 2008 to 2013, which Noonan calls “the worst economic years in Vermont.” She says that the state didn’t come back to a stable point in the economy until 2011, and didn’t start growing economically until 2013.

"We would like to see all areas of the state equally enjoying economic health and recovery, and we know that some areas have lagged behind."

As for her take on the actual unemployment rate in Vermont, Noonan says, “We would like to see all areas of the state equally enjoying economic health and recovery, and we know that some areas have lagged behind.” She highlights Orleans County, Windsor County, Springfield and Bellows Falls as areas she’d like to see improve the amount of good jobs with benefits.

“We have some of the same concerns about the area, but we’re looking at it through a very different lens than that report did,” says Noonan. She says the Labor Department gets their data from people filing for unemployment and those they work with who are transitioning between jobs.

Noonan says a big part of what her department does is try to match seasonal employees with jobs in the off months. “In the fall, when we know construction is winding up for the year, and landscaping is winding down … we’re reaching out and trying to create jobs or match jobs to the areas that are the flip of that, which could be the ski areas and the winter resort areas,” she says.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Vermont, Noonan thinks. She says they are seeing growth in manufacturing jobs, professional services and health care.

"Women are faring somewhat better than men and that is, to a large extent, because of their educational levels."

And what about women in Vermont? “Women are faring somewhat better than men and that is, to a large extent, because of their educational levels. Women in Vermont have better education attainment and that is generally a recipe for success in the work force,” Noonan says.

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