Vermont’s economic numbers are sending a mixed signal

by Robert Maynard

Vermont’s recent economic numbers are sending a mixed signal of of an increase in jobs but a decrease in the number of people working.  Vermont also seems to be one of the country’s leading states when it comes to the percentage of “green jobs” accounting for non-farm payroll jobs.  More information can be found in this Addison Eagle article:

In February, employers added 1,300 jobs, but 1,000 fewer people said they were working.

For the last couple of years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has tracked jobs in businesses that primarily produce goods and services that help the environment and conserve resources. “Green” industries comprise, for example, manufacturers that use recycled materials and businesses involved in renewable energy.

New figures show the Green Mountain State is third nationally in the percentage of green jobs. In 2011 just over 12,000 jobs—4.1 percent of Vermont’s total non-farm payroll jobs—were green.

Given the experience of European countries when it comes to creating “green jobs,” I would not be surprised if the focus on tracking “jobs in businesses that primarily produce goods and services that help the environment and conserve resources” is partially responsible for the disconnect in our economic numbers.  Here are a few examples from Spain of where this approach leads:

  • Since 2000, Spain spent 571,138 euros on each green job, including subsidies of more than 1 million euros per job in the wind industry.
  • The programs creating those jobs destroyed nearly 110,500 jobs elsewhere in the economy (2.2 jobs destroyed for every green job created).
  • The high cost of electricity mainly affects production costs and levels of employment in metallurgy, nonmetallic mining and food processing, and beverage and tobacco industries.
  • Each “green” megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs elsewhere in the economy on average.
  • These costs do not reflect Spain’s particular approach but rather the nature of schemes to promote renewable energy sources.

The question we must ask ourselves is whether the focus on tracking the creation of “green jobs” has led to overlooking the destruction of jobs that result in the creation of “green jobs”.  Given Vermont’s high percentage of green jobs, it should come as no surprise that we are shown as creating jobs by a measurement that focuses of green jobs, but we still have fewer people working.