Virginia's employment growth better than pre-pandemic, but labor participation dropped

Watchful Eye

In August, the number of Virginians who are employed remained above 4.2 million. Meanwhile, Virginia’s unemployment rate fell to 2.6%, according to data from Governor Glenn Younkin’s office.

Not only is the state’s unemployment continuing a trend whereby it’s below the national rate, which increased to 3.7%, but employment growth is now “double the pre-pandemic average in 2019,” the governor’s statement noted.

Employment growth throughout the year has remained strong, averaging 14,000 a month. At 2.6%, Virginia’s unemployment rate is now 1.0 percentage point below the rate from a year ago.

“On a year-to-date basis, we have seen employment pick up substantially compared to 2021,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick in the statement from Governor Youngkin’s office. “We remain on pace to achieve the highest level of annual job growth in the last five years.”

However, the labor force participation rate is the proportion of the civilian population age 16 and older that is employed or actively looking for work. BLS household survey data show the labor force declined to upwards of 4.3 million.

In July, Virginia’s labor force participation rate was 63.8%. In August, it fell slightly to 63.7%. These figures are representative of the fact that the number of people with jobs declined and the number of people who are looking for work also declined.

“While jobs added since January and unemployment levels continue to be strong, I am focused on labor participation amidst this slight pullback in job numbers," said Governor Youngkin in the statement.

“While employment levels contracted in the month, the unemployment level continued to improve," said Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater. “The unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and we see job openings still exceeding the number of those unemployed. We continue to pursue efforts to get more Virginians back in the labor market to satisfy the current employment opportunities."

Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, 10 of 11 major industries had employment increases. The largest over-the-year job gain was in leisure and hospitality, which has added 41,900 jobs, an 11.4% increase. The second-largest over-the-year job gain occurred in education and health services with 30,600 jobs added, representing a 5.7% increase. Coming in third place is professional and business services, up 16,300 jobs, a 2.1%.

The other categories to see job gains include trade, transportation, and utilities, government, information, miscellaneous services, and manufacturing. Even mining and logging saw an increase in jobs, and it was five times greater than the increase in the construction industry.

The only industry category to see job loss was finance, which lost 4,300 jobs.

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Did You Know: Virginians are Saving $229.8 million a month working from home?

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