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January 31, 2014

Jobs Picture Brightens, but More Growth is Needed

UPDATE: March 18, 2014: The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently revised several years of employment data resulting in December 2013 employment levels not quite returning to pre-recession levels.

Virginia’s jobs picture is looking a little brighter this month, with the number of jobs finally surpassing pre-recession levels and the unemployment rate dropping significantly.

But there are still reasons for concern in the data.

First, the good news: employment is up and the unemployment rate is down. As of December 2013, there were 3,700 more Virginians employed than in December 2007. Virginia has recovered 180,000 jobs that were lost during the recession. And Virginia’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.2 percent, well below the recessionary peak of 7.4 percent.


But the other part of the story remains troubling: A smaller share of Virginians are working than before the recession. Just 62 percent of Virginians age 16 or older are employed, down sharply from 67 percent in December 2007.

The plain fact is that Virginia’s job growth is still not strong enough to keep up with the growth in the state’s working-age civilian population.  While there are signs that Virginia’s population growth is slowing, it remains higher than the national rate. And with more Virginians seeking the same number of jobs, Virginia’s unemployment rate remains over 50 percent above pre-recession levels.

We need to make sure Virginia’s economic recovery continues to improve or too many of our citizens who want to work will continue being left out in the cold.

Levi Goren

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