CHARLESTON — The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April dropped a tenth of a percentage point, a vast improvement from last April’s pandemic unemployment numbers, but a sign some workers have yet to return to the workforce.
According to a monthly report released Tuesday by WorkForce West Virginia, the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.9% in March to 5.8% in April. That’s better than the national unemployment rate, which saw an increase from 6% in March to 6.1% in April.
“The number of unemployed state residents decreased by 1,500 to 45,800,” according to the report. “Total employment was up 1,700 over the month.”
That’s a significant drop from April 2020’s unemployment rate of 15.6% during the middle of Gov. Jim Justice’s stay-at-home order and closure of non-essential businesses last March, April and part of May at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The news pleased the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
“April jobs data…shows that West Virginia’s economy is roaring back from the pandemic,” said Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “The fact that West Virginia is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic so well is a testament that pro-jobs, pro-economic development policies have a meaningful impact.”
Gains in the service-providing and goods-producing sectors helped increase total nonfarm payroll employment by 3,200 in April. The goods-producing sector saw employment increases in mining and logging (1,100), and manufacturing (600). Gains in the service-producing sectors came from leisure and hospitality (1,400), financial activities (300), professional and business services (100), and other services (400).
The trade, transportation, and utilities sector lost 400 jobs, while the education and health services sectors lost 100 jobs. Employment also decreased in the construction sector by 200 jobs.
Over the last 12 months, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 67,600 jobs with 27,500 jobs in leisure and hospitality; 11,700 in trade, transportation, and utilities; 7,800 in education and health services; 4,100 in professional and business services; 4,000 in construction; 3,600 in government; 3,100 in mining and logging; 2,000 in manufacturing; 500 in financial activities; 100 in information; and 3,200 in other services.
Despite steady drops in unemployment over the last 12 months, employers continue to report issues with attracting people back to work. Last week, Justice announced the state would pull out of the federally funded pandemic unemployment assistance effective June 19. Some businesses that offer low wages, particularly restaurants and other service industries, are having issues finding workers, claiming the $300-per-week extension of pandemic unemployment benefits pay people more to not work.
According to WorkForce West Virginia’s data, 4,400 were unemployed in West Virginia between February 2020 when unemployment was 5.1% and April with unemployment at 5.8%. Another 14,200 West Virginians were no longer looking for jobs.