2013-09-11 / News

Jobs jump in July

County adds more than 1,100 jobs in a month
By Michael Buettner

Chesterfield County’s job market posted its best month in more than a year in July, with the number of people working in the county surging to its highest level ever.

According to new figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1,155 more county residents were working in July than the month before, a 0.7 percent jump and the biggest one-month increase since March 2012.

A total of 168,515 Chesterfield residents were counted as employed in July, the highest number on record in figures going back to 1990.

On the other side of the coin, the number of people counted as unemployed and seeking work fell by 150, or about 1.5 percent, to 10,079, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent from 5.8 percent in June. However, both figures remained well above the spring unemployment rate: in April, 8,523 residents were unemployed, with a jobless rate of 4.8 percent.

The local figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal factors, which contributed to the strong performance. Ann D. Lang, senior economist with the Virginia Employment Commission, noted in a report that the unadjusted unemployment rate “usually decreases from June to July as students entering the labor market who have not found summer employment leave the labor force.”

However, comparisons with the same period last year still suggest that this July’s performance was strong. “Compared to last July, the unadjusted workweek increased by 1.6 hours, average hourly earnings increased by 37 cents, and average weekly earnings were higher by $45.38,” Lang noted.

Statewide, the biggest increase in employment during the month was in manufacturing, which saw a 1.4 percent jump on a seasonally adjusted basis. The weakest sector was local government, which posted a 1.2 percent decline.

Locally, new unemployment insurance benefits claims indicated that the weakest sectors were administrative and support services, construction, professional and technical services, and restaurants.

However, in another indication of the job market’s recovery, Chesterfield residents collected a total of $1.4 million in unemployment insurance benefits in August, down about $410,000, or 23 percent, from $1.8 million in June. The July figure was the lowest total since December 2008 and was far below the $5 million in unemployment benefits paid to county residents at the unemployment peak in mid-2009.

Chesterfield’s neighbors in the Richmond area posted mixed labor market performances in July. Hanover County’s unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent from 5.4 percent in June and Henrico County’s rate declined to 5.5 percent from 5.6 percent the month before, but Richmond’s rate rose to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally unadjusted jobless rate edged down to 5.8 percent in July from 5.9 percent in June, while the national rate declined to 7.7 percent from 7.8 percent in June.

Around the state, Arlington County posted the only jobless rate below the 4 percent mark in July at 3.8 percent. Another 14 localities, mostly in Northern Virginia, posted rates below 5 percent. At the other end of the scale, 12 localities, mostly in the hard-hit tobacco belt near the North Carolina border, posted jobless rates of 10 percent or higher. Galax saw the state’s highest unemployment rate for the month, 16.2 percent.

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