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Posted September 2, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Area's jobless rate falls in July

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

Winchester-area unemployment fell half a percentage point in July to 8 percent, following a statewide trend.

Nine of Virginia's 10 metropolitan areas saw an improvement in their jobless rates from June to July. The Danville area was unchanged at 12.7 percent.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, the Winchester metro area, which consists of the city, Frederick County and Hampshire County, W.Va., posted 300 fewer jobless claims during the period.

Still, Winchester's rate was nearly twice that of the same month last year.

The timing of the VEC's statistical reference week was a major factor in unemployment's downward trend in July, the commission said. Data was collected during the week of July 12-18, while the two biggest weeks for summer vacation furloughs at manufacturing plants were June 28-July 4 and July 5-11. By July 12, many workers were back on the job and students had either found summer employment or stopped looking, according to VEC Chief Economist William F. Mezger.

Across the region, Shenandoah County and Winchester had the highest unemployment for the month at 8.1 percent, followed by Frederick County (7.8 percent), Warren County (7 percent), Clarke County (6.9 percent) and Rappahannock County (6.1 percent).

August is a transition month for employment, Mezger said. It usually sees a big reduction in the size of the labor force size as students leave summer jobs to prepare to return to school. Thus a similar number of jobless claims can produce a higher unemployment rate, he said.

A measure of relief may be on the horizon, however.

Fall is traditionally one of the best times of the year for employment in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, with back-to-school, tourism, harvesting and other seasonal activities providing a boost to local payrolls.

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