Unemployment rate drops to pre-recession level

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s unemployment rate for February was the lowest in nearly eight years.

The state Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report Friday, showing the state had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.9 percent for February, a decrease of 0.2 percent compared with the month before.

According to the report, February was the first time the state unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent since May 2007.

“Vermont’s unemployment rate — at 3.9 percent — is back as low as those reported before the recession,” said Annie Noonan, commissioner of the state Department of Labor, who noted the report is a sign of “better economic conditions in certain parts of the state.”

Of the 17 labor markets around the state — statistics for which are not seasonally adjusted — every one of them saw a decline in unemployment, with some regions, such as Bennington, Rutland and Barre-Montpelier seeing a monthly drop of 0.6 percent.

The Burlington-South Burlington region had the lowest monthly unemployment rate at 3 percent, while Derby continued to have the highest unemployment rate at 7.7 percent.

Without seasonal adjustment, the state unemployment rate for February was 4.1 percent, a decline of 0.5 percent.

February’s numbers will be subject to revision in the coming months, but, according to the Department of Labor, final numbers for December 2014 show the state added approximately 3,400 jobs compared with December 2013.
Gov. Peter Shumlin welcomed the February job report.

“This is positive news for Vermont’s economy,” Shumlin said. “Combined with the revised jobs numbers released last month, which showed an increase of 3,400 jobs in 2014, Vermont’s economy continues its recovery and is moving in the right direction. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure Vermont’s economy works for every single Vermonter.”

George Malek is president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, where the Barre-Montpelier region saw its monthly unemployment rate fall from 5.1 percent in January to 4.5 percent in February.

“People who are putting their own money at risk are doing a lot of construction, and that is always a good sign,” Malek said. “Up until the last six to 12 months, things have been lagging, other than rebuilding things that had been damaged four years ago.”

“I am cautiously optimistic that those people who have put their money on the line have a good reason to do so. They tend to be much better judges of what’s out there,” Malek continued. “I take some heart in their willingness to step up to the plate.”

The Rutland region saw its monthly unemployment rate fall from 4.8 percent in January to 4.2 percent in February.

“On a local basis, there has seen some manufacturing hiring going on. General Electric continues to add jobs, so that certainly helps to improve those numbers,” said Tom Donahue, CEO and executive director of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.

Donahue said the increase in manufacturing jobs has offset the loss of retail jobs following the closure of Aubuchon Hardware, Sears, and, in April, J.C. Penny.

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