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Posted January 31, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Local jobless rate reaches 6.1 percent

Winchester-area unemployment spiked to 6.1 percent in December as companies closed their doors, furloughed workers and cut back on seasonal hiring in the midst of a yearlong recession.

More than 4,000 claims for unemployment benefits were filed during the Virginia Employment Commission’s statistical reference week of Dec. 7-13.

The full percentage point jump from November was the largest among the state’s 10 metropolitan areas.

Excluding Hampshire County W.Va., which is included in the Winchester job market, the region’s jobless figure was 6.4 percent, its highest rate since early 1994.

Statewide, holiday furloughs — periods of unpaid worker leave — were up 77 percent over last year, and the month’s reference week fell late enough to capture some year-end shutdowns, according to Chief Economist William F. Mezger.

Merchants, caterers, hotels and shippers hired far fewer workers last month because of sluggish business conditions. Normally, about 25,000 workers are added for the holiday period, but this year’s estimates are in the 12,000 to 15,000 range, Mezger said.

Across the region, the city of Winchester had the highest unemployment in December at 7 percent, followed by Warren County (6.6 percent), Frederick County (6.1 percent), Shenandoah County (6 percent), Rappahannock County (4.9 percent) and Clarke County (4.3 percent).

Area job losses continue to mount. Since topping the state in job growth early last year, the top of Virginia has seen a steady decline in employment levels. The region has shed more than 2,000 jobs since October, according to the VEC.

Daily Staff Report

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