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Bad news for Vermont workers: mostly low-wage jobs

Bad news for Vermont workers: A recently released MIT report shows that low-wage jobs will provide the biggest share of Vermont employment growth through 2018. The new report is titled "Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market".

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. Many companies have outsourced work and facilities overseas destroying the lives of American workers.

Equally troubling: the employment structure in Vermont reflects a national trend.

"The structure of job opportunities (in Vermont and elsewhere 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," economist David Autor concluded in the MIT report.

In Vermont, the greatest demand, with more than 400 new openings a year, will be for cashiers and homecare aides, according to an analysis 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.

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.

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