Only 2.7% of workers seeking a job in the Staunton-Waynesboro metro area were unable to find one in June, according to the most recent data on unemployment in Virginia localities.
The figures, released Thursday by the Virginia Employment Commission, show the three localities that make up the metro area — Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta County — continue to fare better than the state and nation as a whole.
Broken down, Waynesboro’s unemployment inched up by 0.1 percentage points from May to June, increasing from 2.9% to 3%, but still better than in June 2018 when the rate stood at 3.5%.
Staunton had a similar increase month to month, rising from 2.8% to 2.9%, but down 0.4 percentage points from the prior year’s 3.2%. Augusta County, meanwhile, remained unchanged at 2.6% from May to June, which compares to 3% in 2018.
Unemployment for the combined metro area was unchanged from May but 0.4 percentage points better than June 2018 when the figure stood at 3.1%.
Statewide, 2.9% of Virginia job-seekers were unable to find work in June, the same rate as the prior month but 0.3 percentage points lower than in June 2018. Nationally, the unemployment rate rose to 3.8% compared to 3.4% in May, but still lower than the previous year, when it stood at 4.2%.
State and national rates are seasonally adjusted to remove the effects of predictable changes, such as weather, on the labor market. Local rates are not.
Timothy Aylor, VEC senior economist, said Virginia continues to experience historically low unemployment rates, although that has leveled off or increased slightly in recent months.
“The number of unemployed has been trending downward since the end of the Great Recession,” Aylor, speaking Monday from Richmond, said of the economic downturn that lasted from December 2017 to June 2009.
While the jobless rate is one measure of the economy, the number of working-age adults actively in the labor market is just as significant. If workers give up looking for a job and drop out, the number of unemployed as a percentage of the overall labor force can actually decrease.
But Virginia’s labor force also has reached record levels, rising to nearly 4.38 million workers in June, Aylor said, and has expanded for 12 consecutive months. Payroll employment during the month saw the biggest increase in business and professional services, adding 2,100 jobs during the month to a total of 761,200, according to VEC data.
“That’s been a big driver in job growth, particularly in Northern Virginia,” Aylor said.
Health services and private education was second in job growth while the manufacturing sector held steady from May to June, he said. Although the unadjusted number of hours worked during the week for manufacturing jobs was unchanged, the paycheck for those workers decreased with average hourly earnings down by $7.82 a week to $787.87, he said.
Trade and transportation lost the most of any sector statewide from May to June, shedding 2,200 jobs.
As a region, the Shenandoah Valley has not only has seen an improved labor market in the decade since the end of the recession, the quality of the workforce also has improved, Aylor said. The percentage of Valley workers with a bachelor’s degree or greater increased by 5.5% over that 10-year period through 2018, to more to 21.1% of the total workforce, he said.
The Staunton-Waynesboro Metropolitan Statistical Area’s rate continues to be lower than nearly every other MSA in the Shenandoah Valley, with only the Virginia portion of the Winchester MSA reporting slightly less unemployment 2.6%. The Harrisonburg MSA, which includes Rockingham County, stood at 3.1% unemployment in June.
Elsewhere, the jobless rate for the Charlottesville metro area, which includes Albemarle County, increased from 2.7% in May to 2.8% in June, matching the individual rates for both the city and county.
The lowest jobless figure in Virginia continued to be found in Arlington County, which reported just 2% of residents unable to find work in June, the same rate as in May. Highland County’s 2.2% tied with three Northern Virginia localities for second lowest.
Petersburg, 5.8%, Danville, 5.6%, Lexington, 5.5%, and Dickenson County, 5.3%, had the highest unemployment among 134 Virginia localities in June.