Virginia Firms Increased Hiring in September, But Unemployment Rate Remained Steady
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Virginia employers added 11,500 jobs in September (after adjusting for seasonal factors), thereby largely making up for the decline in employment recorded in August. The private sector contributed two-thirds of the job increase, while the government sector accounted for one-third of the gain (3,800 jobs). During the past 12 months, the state has generated a net gain of 36,000 jobs for a 1 percent increase through September, somewhat softer than the national growth rate of 1.4 percent over the same period. In a separate survey of households, the unemployment rate in Virginia remained unchanged at 5.9 percent, where it has held steady for the past three months. Only 10 other states registered a lower unemployment rate than Virginia.
Most industry sectors added jobs in September. Education and health services provided the largest gain in jobs (5,700), followed by professional and business services (4,600 jobs) and the government sector. Smaller gains occurred in construction, financial activities, other services, and the information sector. Offsetting some of these gains, the leisure and hospitality sector lost 3,600 jobs in September, while trade, transportation, and utilities shed 2,900 jobs. The manufacturing sector remained nearly flat. Over the past 12 months, however, the manufacturing sector lost more jobs (3,300) than any other major industry sector, while the information sector experienced the greatest percent decline with a fall of 3 percent. The greatest gains over the year were registered in education and health services, financial activities, and professional and business services.
Northern Virginia continued to outpace other metropolitan areas in the state with the greatest gain in jobs for September. None of the major metro areas added more than 1,000 jobs and many of them added fewer than 500 jobs. However, Blacksburg added nearly as many jobs as Northern Virginia for the month and posted the greatest percentage increase for the month and over the year. Only three metropolitan areas lost jobs in September — Virginia Beach, Lynchburg, and Winchester. However, taken as a group, the major metro areas lost 4,700 jobs during September, while smaller metros and rural areas actually added 16,200 jobs. Northern Virginia accounted for 69 percent of the net job gain in Virginia over the past 12 months, with sizable gains also in Richmond, Blacksburg, and Virginia Beach. The Winchester metro area suffered the greatest losses in the number of jobs and in percentage decline over the past year.
Virginia's monthly employment changes have been quite volatile this year. Smoothing out some of the monthly swings by considering quarterly changes, it is clear that job growth was moderate during the first half of the year, with gains of 10,000 jobs in each quarter. In contrast, the third quarter saw a loss of 300 jobs, the largest quarterly loss since the third quarter of 2010. With the softening of employment growth, it is perhaps surprising that the unemployment rate remained at 5.9 percent, with a decline in the number of unemployed as well as an increase in the labor force. Taken together, Virginia's labor market indicators suggest an economy that is still growing but at a slower pace than last year.
Ann Battle Macheras