Unemployment shows minimal improvement in Va., U.S.
Va. unemployment rate was 4.9% in December 2020
Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by less than 1% between November 2020 and December 2020, according to the Virginia Employment Commission, and the commonwealth’s 4.9% December unemployment rate for December was 2.2% higher than in December 2019.
Early predictions from Virginia Commonwealth University and Arizona State University economists show that U.S. employment rates have changed very little in the last two months.
In Virginia, the labor force stayed steady at 4.28 million between November 2020 and December 2020, while the number of employed Virginians fell by 3,388 to 4.08 million. Non-agriculture jobs rose by 800 and the private sector gained 7,000 jobs. The public sector lost 6,200 jobs, however.
At the onset of the pandemic last spring, U.S. employment fell by 14% among working age adults. From early December 2020 to early January 2021, employment stayed stagnant, according to the Real-Time Population Survey conducted by VCU economics professor Adam Blandin and Arizona State economics professor Alexander Bick. The Real-Time Population Survey closely follows the methodology of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey and covers the same time period, but is released two weeks earlier. The survey is conducted in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
“This was a historic loss for the economy, both in its size and its speed,” Blandin said in a statement. “Fortunately, employment also rebounded quickly in the summer and fall. From April to October, employment increased by over 10%, meaning that the economy quickly recovered about two-thirds of lost jobs.”
However, Blandin says, “since October, employment has stopped recovering, and has actually declined. We saw a continuation of this trend in January. This suggests that the early rapid recovery was only a partial one, and many workers who were working prior to the pandemic are still struggling to find work.”
In Virginia, the largest monthly job gains during December were in trade and transportation (adding 5,600 jobs) and manufacturing (adding 4,400 jobs), according to the VEC. The construction industry in Virginia also gained 1,900 jobs. The largest decreases were reported in government and leisure and hospitality.
Of the 11 major industry divisions in Virginia, 10 reported major losses in December 2020 compared with December 2019. Leisure and hospitality was down by 72,300 jobs at the end of the year, while education and health services were down by 39,100 jobs, according to the VEC. The only region in Virginia to net a positive job gain between 2019 and 2020 was Staunton/Waynesboro, which added 800 jobs. Northern Virginia saw the largest year over year drop — losing 66,700 jobs in 2020.
The Real-Time Population Survey for the week of Jan. 10 through 16 also shows that only approximately 60% of Americans are still working for the same employer as at the onset of the pandemic, with 15% not working and 25% working for a new employer.
The survey did show that earnings have recovered for many people, with about half of the respondents reporting they were earning the same amount at the start of the pandemic, and approximately 20% said they were earning more.