Va. jobless rate holds steady in February

The Virginia Employment Commission reports that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in February, holding steady from the January rate and a 0.6 percent decrease from February 2014.

According to the commission, the commonwealth’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has trended downward since October 2011 and remains below the national rate, which dropped 0.2 percent to 5.5 percent between January and February.

In terms of employment gains, the commonwealth saw job gains in nine of the major industry sectors and losses in two of the major industry sectors.

Professional and business services saw the greatest gains between January and February, with a 3,700 increase from January to February, followed by trade and transportation, with a 2,600 increase and finance, with a 2,200 job increase. Manufacturing and private health and human services saw decrease in the month-to-month, with 1,000 and 3,000 jobs lost respectively.

Ann Lang, a senior economist with the commission, said when looking at job gains and unemployment rates, it is important to be aware that the two figures are gleaned from different sources.

“We measure the unemployment rate based on who is collecting unemployment and on a geographical basis,” she said. “The job gains, however, are measured from what the employers in the state submit to us.”

Lang said because job gains are reported by the employer, it does not necessarily mean Virginians are being hired.

“We have no way of knowing where the employee is coming from, especially in areas like Northern Virginia, where folks from Maryland and elsewhere might come to work,” she said.

Lang added, “But it’s good that Virginia companies are hiring, because that indicates the economy is picking up.”

The seasonally adjusted rate takes into account employment changes that occur at different times of the year, whether it is temporary hiring during the holiday season in retail or temporary layoffs in construction during the winter, Lang said.

She said when the county and city unemployment rates are released April 8, it is important to remember that statistics on those levels are not seasonally adjusted. To get an accurate idea of how the local rates change, Lang said people should compare the county or city’s rate during a month to the previous year’s same month.

“For instance, in the leisure and hospitality industry, firms get ready for the tourist season, so that kind of movement is not factored out of the local rates,” she said. “So you look at January of this year compared to January of last year because then you have the same seasonal factors because you’re comparing the same months.”

Lang said while different industrial sectors may pay at different rates, looking at overall job gains across sectors is important to get a picture of the health of the commonwealth’s economy.

“You want to see a broad-based employment gain,” she said. “As a whole, the state is doing well, because we’re adding jobs across many sectors … you want to focus on how many sectors add more than 1,000 jobs. Any job gain is good, but seeing sizable ones is great.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com