Thursday July 14, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont and New Hampshire lost more blue-collar jobs over the past 10 years than almost every other state in the country, according to a new report released by an online business journal.

New Hampshire led the nation with an almost 8-percent drop in the number of blue collar jobs, as a percent of the total workforce, while Vermont had the third highest loss, with its number of blue collar jobs dropping by 7.23 percent.

Utah had the second highest job loss with a 7.27-percent decline between 2000 and 2010.

The report on job losses was posted by the website, 24/7 Wall St., and is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Across the nation about 4 million blue collar jobs were lost between 2000 and 2010 as companies moved plants overseas, and the housing crisis and recession stalled the U.S. economy, the report said.

The report considered manufacturing jobs, retail sales, drivers, food preparation and construction jobs when determining how many blue collar jobs were lost.

Vermont lost a little more than 17,000 blue-collar jobs during the 2000s, the report says, but added 6,500 white-collar jobs.

Vermont and New Hampshire both have some of the lowest unemployment rates in country, with Vermont's 5.4 percent the sixth lowest and New Hampshire third lowest at 4.8 percent.

More than two-thirds of the blue collar jobs that were lost in Vermont were in production.


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Bob Zider, Director and CEO of the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center, said the report is not surprising as the state has seen large and small manufacturers leave the state over the past 10 years.

Since the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center opened in 1996, Vermont shed about 13,000 manufacturing jobs, an approximately 25-percent decline, Zider said.

But at the same time, according to Zider, the average Vermont worker in manufacturing produced two-and-a-half times more output due to improving technologies and production systems.

Manufacturing makes up about 13 percent of Vermont's economy, and the average manufacturing job pays about 36 percent more than the state average wage.

Zider said the manufacturing jobs of today require many more skills than those of a few decades ago, and the Vermont businesses that are thriving are innovating and competing with factories overseas.

"This is a global economy and companies have to be able to compete on the global stage," Zider said. "Companies that want to compete have to be innovative and efficient. There is competition coming from around the world and that is going to continue for some time."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer .com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.