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December 3, 2013

What Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Doesn’t Tell You

If it feels like Virginia is in a jobless recovery, there’s a good reason: the state is in a deeper jobs hole than the rest of the country, with too many people chasing too few jobs.

As of September, Virginia had over 325,000 fewer jobs than it needed to keep up with the growth in the state’s working-age population since the start of the recession.

That’s nine percent of current employment levels, compared to seven percent for the U.S. as a whole.


Not only does the state’s jobs deficit represent a bigger share of employment than elsewhere in the country, it’s a larger share than it was in Virginia even in the depths of the recession, which officially ended in June 2009.

That’s because Virginia’s working-age population – the number of people available to work – grew faster than in most other states.
On the upside, Virginia’s employment levels – leaving aside the growing size of the state’s  working-age population – are close to what they were in December 2007, the official start of the recession. That’s a good thing as far as it goes, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

For workers who still can’t find a job or negotiate for a raise, the more important consideration is the number of jobs that exist compared to the number of people looking for work or potentially looking for work if the economy improves. That’s the working-age population. And Virginia is adding jobs too slowly to keep up with its growing size.

That means that, on average, Virginia’s jobs hole just gets deeper every month. At this rate, Virginia won’t return to pre-recession employment levels.

–Laura Goren, Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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