Virginia Unemployment Rate Continues Downward Trend

April 20, 2012

Virginia's unemployment rate dipped slightly in March but it was enough to make it the lowest jobless rate in more than three years.

The Virginia Employment Commission reported Friday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 0.1 percent to 5.6 percent. The fourth consecutive monthly decline put the state's jobless rate at its lowest level in more than three years, according to the governor's office.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said the rate is also the lowest in the Southeast. He said it's evidence "Virginia is growing strong again."

The commission said the state's unemployment rate has been trending down since January 2010, when joblessness peaked at 7.3 percent.

"All of this means: more Virginians are working today. That is a good thing. It is a bipartisan accomplishment," McDonnell said in a news release. "Now, we must keep this positive momentum going. Virginia's economy is recovering, but it is still early. Too many Virginians still need good jobs."

The March 2012 rate is well below the U.S. jobless rate of 8.2 percent.

The Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell in most states: 30 states reported lower rates in March while eight reported increases. Rates were unchanged in 12 states.

But employers added only 120,000 jobs, half the pace of the previous three months.

That dip in hiring, along with recent increases in the number of people seeking unemployment benefits, has raised some concerns that job gains could slow in coming months.

Virginia's nonfarm payroll employment increased by 32,200 jobs in March compared with the previous month.

Increases were seen in leisure and hospitality, private education and health services, total government, trade and transportation, construction, professional and business services, finance, manufacturing, mining, miscellaneous services and the information sector.

The state agency said 61,237 Virginians were receiving regular unemployment benefits in March. That's up from 59,658 in February and down from 61,821 in March 2011.

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