Messages from Montpelier

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The Joint Fiscal Office offered a legislative briefing on the economic and revenue review for the legislature on November 30. The facts and figures presented here are from Tom Kavet of Kavet, Rockler & Associates, Economic and Public Policy Consulting. Kavet’s been the state economist and principal economic advisor to the legislature since 1996.

The information is intended to inform our money and policy decisions. This was one of several presentations during this voluntary attendance day. (I’ve stated before that I don’t favor out-of-session days because legislators have other jobs, have a long distance to travel and are not paid. Attendees can ask for reimbursement for meals and mileage.) I believe these days are one of several detriments to having a true representative body.

Statistics below are a sampling of what we received. For complete materials and videos of the entire day, go to http://bit.ly/2hqlAfw.

Vermont was tied with Massachusetts and New England with the sixth lowest unemployment rate in the nation in October at 3.3 percent.

Regional unemployment continues to reflect pockets of higher unemployment in the Northeast Kingdom. Chittenden County has the lowest (Kavet said the unemployment map by county really hasn’t changed in 20 years!)

For the lowest 20 percent of income earners, earnings were below 1989 levels. Meanwhile, real income among the top 40 percent of the population hit record highs in 2015.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance in Vermont, a leading indicator of labor markets, remains relatively low.

Although manufacturing jobs have decreased in number, manufacturing output is up 36 percent since 1997 (Greater efficiency? Technological advances?)

The Vermont property tax base (grand list) is still not expected to exceed 2009 peak levels until 2018, putting continued pressure on tax rates to cover rising education costs.

The movement of the “baby-boom” population bulge continues to dominate Vermont and the U.S. demographics and is responsible for the aging profile of both. The children of this large cohort, referred to as the “baby-boom echo,” represents a much more diffuse wave, as families have fewer children and at older ages.

According to the CDC/National Center for Health Statistics, in 2015 Vermont had the lowest number of births per 1,000 females age 15-44 in the nation at 51.1. The next four were New England states, and Washington, D.C. was sixth, followed by Connecticut. The most births were in North Dakota, Alaska, Utah and South Dakota.

According to the Census, in 2015 the largest number of people in Vermont were 85-plus years old with 14,374.

Exports are more important to the Vermont economy than to most states (Listen to the tariff discussions at the federal level.)

The biennium starts on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Happy New Year to us all!