Virginia jobless rate hits 3-year low at 5.8%
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
John Reid Blackwell
Virginia's unemployment rate in January stood at 5.8 percent, the state's lowest figure since January 2009, according to federal statistics out today.
The state's January figure is down from a 6.2 percent rate in December and 6.4 percent jobless rate for a year ago January.
The unemployment rate declined in January even though non-farm payroll employment fell, which normally happens from December to January, particularly in the trade sector as retailers cut back on holiday staffing, the Virginia Employment Commission reported. All of the state's major industry sectors saw declines from December to January as payroll employment dipped by about 64,500 jobs to 3.65 million.
However, payroll employment was up by 47,900 jobs, or 1.3 percent, from January 2011 to January 2012. Nine major industry sectors had job gains in the year-over-year comparisons, while two experienced employment losses. Private education and health services led the employment gains by adding 12,700 jobs, for 2.8 percent growth.
The figures indicate improvement in the job market from January 2011 to January 2012, but a slight pullback from December 2011 to January 2012, said Christine Chmura, an economist with Chmura Economics & Analytics in Richmond.
"It is good news that the unemployment rate in Virginia fell in January, but part of the reason why it fell was because some people were leaving the workforce, presumably because they became discouraged because they weren't finding work," Chmura said.
"Compared with a year ago, the labor force has expanded," she said. "That is good news, that over the past year we have seen the unemployment rate come down and more people looking for work."
Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was well below the national figure, which fell in January to 8.3 percent.
Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling used the decline in the unemployment rate as an opportunity to tout the administration's successes in economic development and job creation over the last two years.
"The good news is we are beginning to come out of this economic downturn stronger and better than most other states," the governor said this morning as he and Bolling visited James River Air Conditioning Inc. in Richmond.
McDonnell said the jobless rate has dropped from 7.2 percent in February 2010, his first full month in office.
Bolling, tapped by McDonnell as the state's chief jobs creation officer, said the "significant drop" in the jobless rate "is further indication that our efforts to get our economy growing again and create jobs are succeeding."
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