Jobs are being created in Vermont. That's good news, but there is also bad news: the occupations projected to have the most growth in the next eight years earn relatively low wages, according to recent data issued by the Vermont Labor Department.
In Vermont, there will be more than 400 new openings each year for both cashiers and home care aides through 2018 - the highest level of openings for any position in the state. Another 362 positions are expected each year for retail sales during the same time period, according to Labor Department projections. The problem: the median income for those three fields is $18,730, $21,130 and $22,840, respectively - and those are the three occupations with the most openings in Vermont through 2018. Median means half earn more and half earn less.
Articles in national publications in recent days have highlighted the hollowing out of good-paying, middle-class jobs throughout the country. Some aspects of those trends are evident in Vermont.
There are 65 types of positions that are defined as "high demand" in Vermont, but just 10 fields are projected to have more than 100 openings each year through 2018. Just three of those occupations earn an average of least $20 an hour, according to an analysis by Sen. Bernie Sanders' Office (executive secretaries, $20/hour; registered nurses, $30/hour; accountants, $31/hour.) See the full chart (PDF). There are nearly 500 different job categories in Vermont.
To be considered a job in "high demand," an occupation must exceed both the statewide average for job creation, having at least 24 openings a year, and the statewide annual growth rate, measured at least 0.8 percent annually.
"Unfortunately, many of the new jobs being projected for Vermont and America are low-paying jobs. We can and must do better," Sanders said.
Vermont has weathered the recession, which began in December 2007, better than most states. In Vermont, more than 21,000 people were jobless and the unemployment rate was 6 percent in July; the U.S. rate was 9.6 percent for August. "Creating good-paying jobs is crucial to rebuilding the middle class," Sanders said.
More than four of 10 Vermont jobs created through 2018, or 44 percent of annual openings, are classified as "low paying," according to an analysis by Mathew Barewicz, the economic and labor market information chief at the Vermont Department of Labor. "Low-paying" in this analysis is classified as any position that earns less than $15.73 an hour, or $32,720 per year. On the other end of the spectrum, 28 percent of Vermont's projected jobs are classified as "high-paying" positions; that figure, however, assumes a "high-paying" position earns $52,000 a year.
Despite the low number of projected jobs in high-paying fields, Barewicz said he expects the median income of Vermonters to increase slightly in coming years, in part, because many good-paying fields are creating a few dozen jobs each year.
Several reports have documented the reduction of good-paying jobs for the nation's middle class. The New York Times published an article last week addressing two studies, both of which indicate middle-income jobs are becoming harder to find. The Boston Globe published an article Monday, headlined "Some economists see a US divided by pay scales."
"There will be jobs. The big
question is what they are going to pay and what kind of lives they will allow
people to lead," Lawrence Katz, a Harvard University economist, told The
Associated Press. "This will be a big issue for how broad a middle class we are
going to have."
FIELDS WITH THE MOST JOBS OPENINGS IN VERMONT
Throughout Vermont, the median annual wage for cashiers - the field projected to have the most new jobs - was $18,730 last year. There were more than 9,100 cashiers in Vermont in 2008, the first year of the Labor Department's job projections. Most of the cashiers work in gas stations and food and beverage stores; 459 such jobs are expected to be created each year, the most of any other job category in the state.
The "personal and home care aide" category has the second highest number of openings in Vermont, tallying 426 each year. More than 7,200 Vermonters worked as home care aides in 2008 and had a median income of $21,130 last year.
Retail sales, with a median annual
wage of $22,840, has the third most openings in Vermont. In 2008, there were
10,472 Vermonters working in retail sales, more than any other job in the top
25 occupations projected to have "most openings."
Some of the "fastest growing" jobs in Vermont have healthy wages, $32 an hour to $40 an hour. The fastest growing category, however, measures the rate at which the jobs are growing - not the number of new jobs created.
The "fastest growing" occupation in Vermont through 2018 is "network systems and data communication analyst," according to state data. These are good-paying positions, which had a median income of $62,810 last year. The growth rate is high, 4.9 percent, but the actual number of positions created is small. Projections state there will be 814 such jobs in 2018, or roughly 300 more than the 503 jobs were listed in that category in 2008.
The second fastest growing position in Vermont is the home care aide, which has a median hourly wage of $10.16 an hour. The home care aide, which also has the second largest amount of openings each year, has a growth rate of 3.9 percent, state data says.
The third fastest growing occupation in Vermont are computer software engineers. Like the data communications analysts, these jobs pay well. They earn $36 an hour, or nearly $75,000 annually, but there are relatively few new jobs being created, compared to the hundreds of new cashiers hired in Vermont annually. The software engineers category is growing at 3.5 percent annually, growing from 876 jobs in 2008 to a projected 1,237 in 2018. When systems software engineers are included, another 33 jobs are created annually.