Shumlin says Montpelier is making right decisions 'to help people grow jobs'
by Alan Panebaker vtdigger.org Governor Peter Shumlin took the opportunity to celebrate what seem like signs of an economic recovery at the Vermont Business and Industry EXPO Wednesday.
According to statistics released last week by the Vermont Department of Labor, the seasonally-adjusted statewide unemployment rate for April 2012 was 4.6 percent, a decrease of two-tenths of a percent from the revised March rate.
That 4.6 percent rate puts Vermont at the fourth lowest in the country.
That decrease in unemployment has received some criticism as well. According to one think tank, the Public Assets Institute, notes that the total number of jobs in the state is shrinking.
According to Vermont labor force statistics, there was a decrease of 1,500 jobs in April from the revised March data. A large decrease in leisure and hospitality jobs, according the the Vermont Department of Labor came from the abrupt end of winter that happened when the state experienced an early spring heat wave in March. State labor statistics also reported a decrease in the labor force of 1,100 people from March to April.
Despite the naysaying, Shumlin said the unemployment numbers are still good news.
“There are no statistics that wise people can’t criticize,” he said. “In fairness, these unemployment numbers, they’re 4.6 percent, are measured exactly same way they’ve been measuring them for years. That rate was 8.2 percent at the peak of the recession. What I’m hearing from employers across Vermont more and more, they’re not saying to me things are tough we’ve got to lay people off. Instead, they’re expressing optimism.”
Shumlin credited the Legislature for helping the economy by balancing two consecutive budgets without raising broad-based taxes. He also praised lawmakers for passing a law that would put a moratorium on a state sales tax on cloud computing software.
“We’re making the right decisions in Montpelier to help people grow jobs,” he said.
Shumlin said one place where the state needs to improve is income growth.
“There are signs in last few numbers we’ve seen that incomes starting to rise in Vermont,” Shumlin said. “For me that’s really going to be the measure of our success.”
According to a survey by the US Census Bureau, between 2008 to 2010, median household income in Vermont was $53,490 in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars — making Vermont 15th in the nation.
Shumlin said he is not campaigning until after Labor Day, but he did say he was humbled by a recent poll by Vermont Business Magazine, WCAX and WDEV showing he would likely win 60 percent of the gubernatorial vote if the election were held today.
While Shumlin patted his administration on the back for working to promote jobs, Randy Brock, who is running for governor, chatted with local business owners at the Expo.
Brock, a Republican senator, is not so convinced lawmakers are doing what is best for business.
The top issue on his campaign website says: “As your governor, I will: Change Vermont’s heavy-handed regulatory environment so businesses can create and keep jobs.”
Shumlin said he has focused on job growth.
“I do not believe that anyone with a straight face can say that my team has not been focused on jobs and raising incomes of those who have jobs in Vermont with the exception of rebuilding Vermont better than Irene found us, and I’m like a broken record that’s what we do every day,” he said.