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April 23, 2013

Losing Ground: Despite Positive First Quarter Job Growth, Current Pace Won’t Fill Jobs Hole

You might think that adding almost 10,000 jobs in the first three months of this year would be good news for Virginia, but when you find out that the size of the working-age population grew by more it puts a damper on the data.

That’s the upshot of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the first quarter of 2013.

Let’s start with the good news: Virginia added 9,900 civilian non-farm jobs in that period, according to seasonally-adjusted data released last week. Virginia’s unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent in the first quarter, down a couple of ticks from 5.7 percent at the end of 2012 and 5.9 percent a year ago.

But when you compare these numbers to the faster growth of the state’s working-age population, the good news ends.

Virginia’s working-age population has grown 8.1 percent since the start of the recession. Had job growth in Virginia kept pace with population growth, the state would have a little over 4 million jobs today, but unfortunately it did not. Instead, we have just 3.75 million jobs. That leaves a gap of about 323,000 jobs between what we have and what we need get our economy back to strong employment levels.

To close this gap within the next three years while keeping up with more expected growth in the state’s working-age population, Virginia would have to add over 13,000 jobs every month.

The bad news is that we’re not even close to meeting this goal. From January through March, Virginia added an average of just 3,230 jobs a month. That’s less than one-fourth of the number of jobs the state needs to start climbing out of this hole.

These latest numbers are a reminder of how we need to continue to invest in the things we know support a strong economy, like education and health care, and that form the building blocks for real job growth for Virginians.

–Laura Goren, Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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