Unemployment down in Virginia

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Good news tonight about Virginia's economy. Statewide unemployment has hit its lowest point of the year, and while the news is certainly good -- the long-term, job outlook is still uncertain.

The latest unemployment numbers are from October. They reflect a hiring surge in the retail sector, which is now in the midst of its busiest time of the year.

"October is always a good month, it's one of the best months of the year because the schools are back in session, the harvest is going on, and the merchants are starting to build for the holiday season," said William Mezger, Economist, Virginia Employment Commission.

By the numbers, it looks like this: statewide unemployment stood at 6.5% in September. Down to 6.3% in October, a new low for 2009. For the Richmond metro area, the number was 7.4% in October- also a yearly low, but still higher than the state average.

"Richmond is still recovering from Circuit City, Land America, and all the layoffs that took place about a year ago," said Mezger.

Economists expect more holiday hiring to continue through December, followed by another spike in unemployment around the first of next year. After that, the jobless rate should creep downward, thanks in part to some long-term economic generators.

"Virginia has more military bases than any other state, and a lot of the stimulus moneys are being spent on the military bases, or with contractors working on the military bases," he said.

This includes the expansion of Fort Lee.

"That's providing a lot of long term jobs, both in the construction and then to sustain the base," Mezger said.

For the more than 261,000 Virginians still looking for work, these numbers may provide little comfort. But the trend is encouraging- Virginia's unemployment rate has fallen every month since its peak back in June.

"Since that time it's gradually been coming down while the nation has continued to go up," said Mezger.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.