Va. unemployment rate hits 3-year low

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The jobless rate in Virginia hits a milestone as top leaders look for ways to build on the momentum.

Tuesday, Virginia's January unemployment rate hit 5.8%, down from 6.2% in December. Approximately 4,500 Virginians found jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The numbers represent a three year low for Virginia, which Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling touted at one of Virginia's small business success stories.

It was never billed as a victory lap, but Gov. McDonnell's tour of James River Air Conditioning, Inc. had that kind of Virginia's fluctuating unemployment rate fell to its lowest point since January of 2009.

"It's because of the great work of the private sector, primarily with our entrepreneurs, our risk takers, our people that go to work every day finding ways to create new jobs," McDonnell said.

The Richmond-based heating and cooling business started with one person 43 years ago. It has 150 now. And maybe Virginia isn't seeing exactly the same rate of growth, but top leaders believe it's at least heading in the right direction.

"By every indication, the investment that the General Assembly has made in money, the investment that we have made in time is paying off and its returning huge dividends," Bolling said.

The theme is not unfamiliar in Central Virginia. President Barack Obama visited Prince George last Friday, arguing that state and federal governments must do more to encourage job creation.

"This is the place with the best workers, the best ideas, the best universities. This is the place to be," Obama said Friday at the Rolls Royce plant.

There was no debating that point. Where the parties diverge, is on what comes next.

"Talk is cheap. People want to see you actually put policies in place that will solve problems and actually get concrete results for the citizens of Virginia," McDonnell said.

Expect more of that message from both sides as Virginia plays a key role in the November presidential election.

Virginia's unemployment rate of 5.8% remains lower than the national average of 8.3%. The federal statistics indicate Virginia has added more than 41,000 jobs since January of last year.

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