(The Center Square) – Virginia’s unemployment rate went down slightly in March, but its recovery has been slightly below average, according to a WalletHub report.
Unemployment decreased by 0.1 percentage points in March and now rests at 5.1%. Last month’s number is 6.2% lower than its pandemic-era height, which was 11.3%. Unemployment in the commonwealth is still below the national rate, which was 6% in March.
“Virginia’s unemployment rate is steadily improving and we are making real progress in safely reopening our economy,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “While we have made great strides in our recovery, we know there is still more work to do. We will continue to focus our efforts bringing more Virginians into the workforce and supporting families, businesses, and communities with the resources they need to build back stronger.”
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 800 jobs in the month and the labor force increased by 1,618 people. The number of employed residents rose by 6,669 and the number of unemployed residents went down by 5,051. Over the year, jobs are still down 4.4%, primarily from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic restrictions.
Every major sector still saw over-the-year job losses with leisure and hospitality being hit the hardest. That industry lost 76,600 jobs, which is an 18.8% decrease. The second largest job loss was in government, which lost 36,800 jobs, a 5% decrease.
Although the commonwealth loosened many of the COVID-19 restrictions, the ones that remain have hurt certain industries, particularly, leisure, hospitality, restaurants and bars. The state still maintains a mask mandate, event gathering restrictions, a midnight curfew for dining in and a requirement that tables at bars and restaurants be six feet apart.
“Virginia’s workers and businesses have faced many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, but their resolve and perseverance has helped overcome them,” Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy said in a statement. “The growing rate of vaccinations gives us confidence that this downward trend will continue in the months ahead. We will keep working diligently to assist Virginians with job training programs and help them gain employment in a changing, post-pandemic job market.”
The commonwealth ranks below average in its unemployment recovery, according to a report released by WalletHub. Virginia ranked 30th in its overall unemployment recovery.
According to the report, Virginia’s unemployment rate increased by 68.4% since March 2019 and increased 76.8% since March 2020. It went up 77% from January 2020.
The states with the best unemployment recoveries were Nebraska, Utah, South Dakota and Alabama. The worst unemployment recoveries were Hawaii, New York, Connecticut and California.
Members of the business community have said looser restrictions and more vaccinations will improve these numbers. They have also urged the state to use federal money to offset losses to the unemployment insurance fund to prevent a potential tax hike on businesses that could add additional burdens as businesses try to recover from pandemic losses.