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Posted July 1, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Area jobless rate creeps up in May

The region’s unemployment picture continues to dash any hopes of a quick economic recovery.

The Winchester-area jobless rate inched up to 8.2 percent in May after falling each of the two previous months, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

Approximately 5,280 residents of Winchester, Frederick County and Hampshire County, W.Va., drew unemployment benefits during the VEC’s sample week of May 10-16, an increase of 160 claims over April.

All 10 Virginia metro areas saw a jump in unemployment from April to May, though Winchester’s increase of two-tenths of a point was less than the state average of nearly half a percentage point.

Still, the top of Virginia maintained its position as one of the state’s unemployment leaders behind Danville (13 percent) and the New River Valley (8.9 percent).

Across the region, Shenandoah County had the highest jobless rate at 8.6 percent, followed by Winchester (8.4 percent), Frederick County (8.1 percent), Warren County (8 percent), Clarke County (6.2 percent) and Rappahannock County (5.9 percent).

Statewide, manufacturing employment continued to slide in May, driven by U.S. auto companies’ decision to suspend production for the remainder of the 2009 model year, according to VEC Chief Economist William F. Mezger. The average manufacturer’s work week in May was 2.5 hours shorter than during the same month in 2008.

June is expected to see a further rise in unemployment as high schoolers join college students in one of the worst summer job markets in decades, Mezger said. Federal stimulus money is starting to create jobs, he said, but problems at vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers and dealers will create additional unemployment for several more months.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley isn’t immune to the trend.

On May 22, International Automotive Components in Strasburg was notified that one of its main product lines for General Motors was being transferred to a plant in Mexico, eliminating 110 local jobs.

Bookmaker Berryville Graphics has announced plans to lay off 47 workers this summer as its digital printing department is shut down and moved to a sister facility in Pennsylvania.

Another major Berryville employer, American Woodmark, ceased production this week, putting 250 people out of work. The cabinetmaker also plans to close one of its production facilities in Moorefield, W.Va.

— Daily Staff Report

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