MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Republican Gov. Phil Scott highlighted an uptick in Vermont's workforce on Wednesday, good news for the state, which has struggled to find enough people to fill jobs being offered.

At an event outside the Department of Labor headquarters in Montpelier, Scott said that since the beginning of 2018, Vermont employers have added about 4,500 employees to the state's labor force. That increases the state workforce to about 349,000 people, the highest it's been since early 2011.

At its lowest point in recent history, October 2016, the state workforce had contracted to about 330,000.

"This means Vermonters who are here, but not working or unable to find steady employment, are making their way back into the labor force," Scott said.

But he said the announcement was not a declaration of victory.

"We still have big economic challenges in front of us," Scott said.

Officials said they are hearing anecdotally that wages are going up. Those changes have not yet been reflected in statistics, however, and the state still needs to attract more people.

Scott attributed the good employment news to a variety of state education and training programs designed to get more people into the workforce who might not otherwise have sought employment.

Since he took office in 2017, Scott has focused on the need to increase the size of the state's workforce, which over the last several years has been shrinking. The governor says Vermont, which has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, is still facing demographic challenges with an aging population and a stagnant, or declining, population.

"Needless to say, growing Vermont's labor force is a highly complex arrangement where both economic development and community development converge and in some cases collide," said Vermont Deputy Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington.

He said the focus has changed from people going to the department for services to one where services are delivered to people who need them.

Harrington said the number of apprenticeships has increased by about 40 percent over the last two years and they cover an additional 17 new programs. The state also invests $350,000 a year in internships and on-the-job training.

The department is working with the Department of Corrections to help find jobs for people who will be getting out of prison or who have recently been released. They are also working with people recovering from drug addiction.