Richmond Fed: Va. gained 8,000 jobs in Sept.
Three jobs open for every unemployed person in state
Virginia employers added 8,000 net jobs in September, marking the first month in which total employment has exceeded pre-pandemic levels, representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond said Friday.
While that’s good news, job recovery continues to be uneven across sectors, with employment in the transportation and warehousing sector exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 10.5% while accommodations and food services are down about 5.5% from before the pandemic, said Joe Mengedoth, a Virginia regional economist for the Richmond Fed.
Recovery also is uneven across the state. Blacksburg and Winchester are the only two metropolitan statistical areas in the state with jobs exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Richmond and Virginia Beach are experiencing “significant gaps” of about 10,000 to 14,000 jobs below that February 2020 levels, Mengedoth said.
Fridays’ Fed update was based on unemployment and nonfarm payroll data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that the state’s 2.6% unemployment rate remained unchanged from August to September, outpacing the national rate of 3.5%.
“Very little changed in September,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement. “We remain focused on returning Virginians to the workforce and implementing policies that get Virginians off the sidelines. We will continue our efforts to build our workforce to meet the many opportunities for great jobs in the commonwealth.”
Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick said, “With 113,220 unemployed residents, Virginia is approaching numbers we haven’t seen since June of 2001. With a strong job market in Virginia, our top priority is getting more Virginians into the labor force.”
In terms of supply and demand, the state is lagging the nation when it comes to job openings. There are about three jobs open for every unemployed person in Virginia; nationally, that number has fallen to less than two openings.
Mengedoth said, “There’s a lot of demand, there’s a lot of opportunities for those who are looking for work in Virginia.”
While the state added 8,000 jobs in September, that was significantly down from the 17,000 positions added in August, and 18,000 added in July, Mengadoth said. But he’s not necessarily worried by that decrease. In February, the state added 24,000 jobs, followed by 6,000 in March, for example. “Overall, my read of the most recent data is that it’s positive,” he said. “Again, the job growth was spread across many sectors and industries in the state.”
Of the positions added in September, construction accounted for about 3,300 jobs, followed by 2,40o jobs in trade, transportation and utilities and 1,600 jobs in professional business services.
The leisure and hospitality industries took the biggest hit, losing 3,500 jobs. “It’s typically the time of year where the summer season comes to a close and many of those businesses tend to employ younger adults to return to their education,” Mengedoth said, adding “nevertheless, this was a job loss and an industry that has been struggling to return to its pre-pandemic employment.”
Renee Haltom, a vice president and regional executive for the Richmond Fed, talks with CEOs across Virginia to track the economy. She said Friday that the biggest slowdown she’s seen statewide is in the housing sector, which she attributes to rising interest rates. With regard to supply chains, she noted that lead times are falling and there have been slow, general improvements, with exceptions for “random disruptions.”
In some areas of the economy, including for consumer durable goods, price pressures are starting to come down, including for consumer durables where availability has increased, she added.
While it’s possible inflation has peaked, Haltom said, it’s still difficult to determine, because the data varies greatly.
“It’s no longer the case that you can just pass along any price increase. [Businesses are] now getting customers kind of pushing back and saying, ‘No, we won’t accept this price increase,’ and so, that’s a positive sign for inflation. But then there’s other places, especially where labor is a really big input, where it’s a labor-intensive firm or sector, those tend to be places where we’re not seeing a whole lot of letup of price pressure, and that’s because labor is still incredibly tight.”
While higher inflation has driven some workers back to the labor market, especially for lesser skilled, lower wage jobs, employers seeking to fill higher skilled jobs, especially for skilled trades, continue to see challenges, Haltom said.