Darn Tough and National Life Cut a Combined 100 Jobs in Vermont | Off Message

Darn Tough and National Life Cut a Combined 100 Jobs in Vermont


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Two Vermont companies laid off a total of about 100 workers this week in the latest sign of a pandemic-induced economic downturn.

Northfield sock maker Darn Tough Vermont cut nearly 50 manufacturing jobs, while National Life Group laid off 53 employees at its Montpelier office.

"Many people are talking about the post-COVID world, but with each day, we learn that this virus will be with us for a long time," Vermont Chamber of Commerce president Betsy Bishop said of the news. "The National Life and Darn Tough announcements are likely just the early signs of changes in our economy."

Darn Tough was expanding operations before the coronavirus hit American shores. The company signed a lease at a second facility in Waterbury, and CEO Ric Cabot told Vermont Public Radio in January that he planned to add another 100 employees to his workforce of more than 300.

"A few months ago we couldn't grow fast enough," the company said in a June 22 Facebook post announcing the layoffs.

Similarly, National Life Group, which sells life insurance and annuities, reported record earnings in recent years. The company also laid off 42 employees from out-of-state locations, for a total of 95 cuts to its 1,400-person workforce.

In a press release, the company attributed the layoffs to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.

“While it is impossible to predict the course of this virus or the extent of the economic recession, I know that we – National Life – will emerge from this crisis even stronger,” chairman, CEO and president Mehran Assadi said.

At his press conference Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott said the job cuts underscored the pandemic's broad economic fallout.

"I’ve been forewarning that this is going to have economic ramifications, that it’s going to affect all of us in some way. And no one is going to be left untouched," he said.

Bishop said that while decisions by larger companies will attract headlines, smaller businesses in restaurant and lodging industries are "at the front edge of the impact."

"We don’t see the daily announcements, but we anticipate there to be massive changes in the tourism industry as quarantine restrictions continue," she wrote in an email.

Bishop added: "Employee count, commercial leases, business closures are all pieces of the economic puzzle that we will be dealing with as a state for months to come."

Kevin McCallum contributed reporting.

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