Release: Vermont Employment Outlook Shows Middle-Class Jobs Shrinking

BURLINGTON, Vt., September 9 -Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today released a report showing that low-wage jobs will provide the biggest share of Vermont employment growth through 2018.

"Unfortunately, many of the new jobs being projected for Vermont and America are low-paying jobs. We can and must do better," said Sanders, a member of the Senate labor committee.

As the state and nation struggle through the worst recession since the 1930s, Vermont's 6 percent unemployment rate and the 9.6 percent national jobless figure overshadow a decline in manufacturing jobs and other occupations that once supported middle-class families.

The employment structure in Vermont reflects a national trend. "The structure of job opportunities in the United States has sharply polarized over the past two decades, with expanding job opportunities in both high-skill, high-wage occupations and low-skill, low-wage occupations, coupled with contracting opportunities in middle-wage, middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs," MIT economist David Autor concluded in a report on The Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market.

In Vermont, the greatest demand, with more than 400 new openings a year, will be for cashiers and home care aides, according to the analysis compiled for Sanders using state employment data. Another 362 positions are expected in each of the next eight years for retail sales. The median income for those three fields is $18,730, $21,130 and $22,840

The highest number of annual openings through 2018 are for cashiers, who are  paid an average of $9.57 an hour. According to the state data, 459 such positions are projected to open up each year.

Health care is a bright spot in Vermont's economy. Nursing is one of the few fields with both high demand and good pay. The projected 214 positions opening up annually for registered nurses pay an average of $30 an hour. On the other hand, home care aides are paid only $10 an hour. There are 426 anticipated openings for home care aides each year, the second highest for any of the almost 500 fields of work 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 at least $20 an hour. Executive secretaries make $20 an hour on average, registered nurses are paid $30 an hour, and accountants typically earn $31 an hour. For a full list, click here.   

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. 

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 his analysis is classified as any position that earns less than $15.73 an hour, or $32,720 per year.

Sanders is working to create good-paying jobs by reforming U.S. trade policies, expanding broadband service throughout Vermont, promoting employee-ownership of businesses and encouraging major employers, such as Sandia National Laboratories, to locate facilities in Vermont.