Vermont Labor Department: Unemployment continued to fall in August, but challenges remain

August unemployment numbers for Vermont show that the rate is continuing to drop as the state continues to try to bounce back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The seasonally-adjusted statewide unemployment rate for August was 4.8%, according to the Department of Labor. During the previous month, the rate was estimated to be 8.3%, a report released Friday stated. 

Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate is much higher — it was estimated to be 8.4% in August.

Unemployment claims are up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers

At the height of the pandemic and the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order in April, the unemployment rate was estimated to be 16.5%, according to a previous report from the Department of Labor.

The unemployment rate this August remains higher than August 2019, which was estimated to be 2.4%, according to the new report. 

Data based on the U.S. Census’ monthly household survey estimates that nearly 15,000 Vermonters exited the labor force this past month, the report states.

The August data also showed employment in the hardest-hit industries such as leisure and hospitality is rising but still below pre-pandemic levels, according to the report.

The storefront glass of Katharine Monstream's Monstream Studio on St. Paul Street in Burlington sends a message to city residents on Sunday, March 22, 2020. Many businesses including bars and restaurants are closed during the outbreak of COVID -19.

Vermont’s total economic reality likely not completely reflected in data

Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said that people who are unemployed, actively looking for work and willing to accept work if offered are considered part of the statistical labor force. 

However, he said, “the daily impacts of this emergency, from childcare and remote education, to concerns about workplace and personal safety, make the search for work much more challenging.”

Additionally, Harrington said the actual number of Vermonters filing weekly for unemployment benefits remains higher than the household survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, from which the unemployment rate is estimated. He acknowledged that the data as a result may not paint a full picture of the state’s economic reality.

“What is clear, is that the traditional definitions used to calculate unemployment

rates or categorize displaced workers under normal circumstances, do not align with the crisis environment we’re in today,” Harrington wrote in the report.

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-651-4835 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.

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