Study: Richmond has lower unemployment among African American workers

While the economy is still sluggish, prospects for job seekers can seem grim. But the Economic Policy Institute found one silver lining. Unemployment is lower in Richmond and Virginia than many other metropolitan areas, particularly for African Americans.

Said Richmond resident Tracy Lewis, "I'm looking right now for a job."

High unemployment makes finding that job much more competitive. Said job seeker Marilyn Mitchell, "It seems like it's gotten worse to me."

The problem may be more difficult for African Americans across the country. The Economic Policy Institute found unemployment tends to be higher among blacks than for Caucasians or other races, usually due to what it calls "educational attainment."

But the study found chances for a job in Richmond and Virginia were better than most other cities in the country. In 2010, Richmond was found to have the 4th lowest rate of unemployment among African Americans of 31 metro areas surveyed.

Reacted Mitchell, "That's amazing. I wouldn't be able to tell. Just by being in it, it doesn't seem like it would be better than any other state."

Washington, D.C. ranked a little better, and Hampton Roads had the lowest of the 31 areas surveyed.

So why is unemployment lower in Virginia than other states? Analysts attribute it to state, federal, and military jobs, Virginia's business friendly climate, and increased enrollment in secondary education. Other areas, such as Detroit, Cleveland, or Milwaukee, for example, have lost significant manufacturing jobs.

Earl Boatwright, who's currently employed, observes, "I think it's slowly climbing back up the ladder, because I look in the paper, there are a lot jobs out there. Not plentiful like it was before, but there are a lot of jobs out there."

However, unemployment rates in Richmond, the state of Virginia, and the country are still much higher than pre-recession years, leaving job seekers with fewer opportunities and more applicants to compete against.

Said Mitchell, "It's not a pretty picture. It could be much better and hopefully it will get there."