Virginia Unemployment Rate Declined in October As Private Sector Added Jobs
Private employers added jobs during October, but not as many as were lost in the government sector, according to the latest establishment-based data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After adjusting for seasonal factors, the net loss in Virginia was small, just 600 jobs, but September's job gain was revised upward by an additional 7,000 jobs. During the past 12 months, the state generated a net gain of 35,400 jobs for a 1.0 percent increase through October, somewhat softer than the national growth rate of 1.5 percent over the same period. In a separate survey of households, the employment picture seemed more positive, with employment growth and a decline in the number of unemployed leading to a decline in the unemployment rate to 5.7 percent. Among the states, Virginia tied for the 10th lowest unemployment rate, along with New Hampshire and Kansas.
More industry sectors lost jobs than gained in October. In addition to the loss of 1,400 jobs in the government sector, construction and other services experienced sizable losses for the month, with smaller losses occurring in manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and the information sector. Many of these sectors posted job gains over the past year, although construction, manufacturing, information, and mining and logging experienced a net decline in jobs. On the positive side, the professional and business services sector posted the largest monthly increase in jobs and also contributed about 30 percent of the overall job gains for the past 12 months. Smaller gains for the month were registered in trade, transportation and utilities, as well as financial activities. Over the past year, education and health services added the greatest number of jobs, while financial activities registered the largest percentage increase.
Northern Virginia added more than twice as many jobs as any other metro area in October. Job gains were sizable in Lynchburg and Virginia Beach, with smaller gains in Blacksburg, Harrisonburg, Winchester, and Roanoke. Over the past 12 months, every major metro area in Virginia added jobs, with the exception of a small net decline for Roanoke. The 12-month gain in Blacksburg was larger than the gain in Virginia Beach, but Northern Virginia outpaced all metros with an increase of 22,800 jobs. Job losses were concentrated in just a few of Virginia's major metropolitan areas in October. The Richmond metro area registered the largest monthly loss, with smaller losses in Charlottesville and Danville.
Virginia's unemployment rate declined for the first time since March, registering 5.7 percent in October after spending three months at 5.9 percent. While the unemployment rate may steal the headline in this month's labor market statistics, the growth in the labor force deserves special mention as well. Virginia's labor force registered its largest one-month increase since late 2001, with a gain of more than 15,000 during October, following a strong gain in September of over 10,000 participants. In addition, as is sometimes the case, the employment growth suggested by the household survey was stronger than the gains suggested by the much larger establishment survey. Taken together, Virginia's labor market indicators signaled an improvement in job opportunities and more encouraged job seekers, although job growth remained modest.
Ann Battle Macheras