Vermont, in the popular imagination is “charming and different,” but for a long time, when it came to the economy, it was similar to much of the country mired in the recession, “disappointing and grim.” But the Green Mountain State economy “is growing again,” observes Richard Heaps, vice president of the Northern Economic Consulting.
The unemployment rate is at 5.4 percent, fifth best in the nation. In addition, he told MillionaireCorner, “There is good growth in tax revenues in all of the things you’d expect to see to confirm that the economy is growing. (We’re forecasting) a job growth rate of 1 percent, which isn’t bad. Given our demographics (Vermont is ranked 49th in population) you’re not going to see much more.”
Vermont, which has the country’s smallest economy, took hits that will be familiar to other states impacted by the recession. “It was as disappointing and grim as anywhere else.” Heaps said.
Manufacturing and housing took a beating, and those led the all the other sectors down with it; hospitality, auto sales, you name it. We did not see the speculation in the housing market prior to the bust that everyone did, so when it collapsed, we didn’t have far to collapse. It’s better than it was, but it’s not healthy by any means.”
Farming looms large in the Vermont psyche, Heaps added, but it accounts for perhaps 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.
But while Vermont’s emergence from the recession has been as slow and sticky as its famed maple syrup, there are optimistic signs of a self-sustaining recovery. Across the board, he said, “everything’s growing but government. During the recession, government grew while we propped it up with federal money. Now that that’s going, government is actually shrinking. As far as the private sector, we’re seeing broad based growth (in such industries as) health care, manufacturing and retail. Tourism has picked up. Whatever happens in southern New England and the Northeastern states is going to (impact) on our tourism, and they had a bad time, so we went down with them.”
The forecast for 2011? “It looks like we’re going to have solid employment growth,” he offered. “We’ll be seeing more Help Wanted signs. If you lined up the 50 states we would be among the top in how we’re doing. If the rest of the country had unemployment of 5.4 percent, Obama would be dancing in the streets.”