July 15, 2010
Virginia has added nearly 72,000 jobs the past five months as it struggles to emerge from 2010 unemployment levels that are the worst since the early 1980s.
Gov. Bob McDonnell said Thursday that 71,500 jobs had been created since February, the same time the state unemployment rate has hovered just above 7 percent.
About one-tenth of the jobs resulted directly from state economic development efforts, he said, and about 80 percent were created by private businesses.
"We have hundreds of thousands of Virginians now who can't find a job, and that's unacceptable," said McDonnell, who was elected resoundingly a year ago on a pledge to be a relentless jobs recruiter.
Substantial employment growth during the next year is not only critical to McDonnell politically, it's crucial for the state to meet its revenue targets for the 2011 budget. Income taxes withheld from paychecks account for about two-thirds of the state's general operating budget, underwriting core services such as public education, health care and social services, and public safety.
McDonnell estimated that perhaps 14,000 of the jobs could be linked to the economic jolt the federal stimulus package provided as a result of programs such as highway construction that spun off private sector employment.
"There certainly has been some short-term, salutary effect of the stimulus. How much? Hard to say," the Republican governor who was sworn in six months ago said of the economic recovery package adopted by a Democratic Congress and President Barack Obama.
Compared to other states, Virginia's economy has weathered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression well. The state's present seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 7.1 percent compares with a nationwide rate of 9.7 percent, and it is the 13th lowest in the nation. Virginia's per capita job growth rate since January ranks third nationally, behind Maryland and Delaware.
On Tuesday, CNBC ranked Virginia as the second-best state for business nationally behind Texas. Until then, Virginia had been ranked No. 1.