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Job market gains steam despite uptick in unemployment / February 19, 2020
Workers returning to the active labor force in December drove up monthly unemployment rates across the Southside Virginia region, according to recently released data by the Virginia Employment Commission.

Mecklenburg County’s jobless rate jumped to 3.9 percent in December after coming in at 3.6 percent in November. However, Mecklenburg added jobs during December — 114 new hires, according to the VEC. The official unemployment rate ticked upward because the pool of available workers expanded, too, outpacing jobs growth.

As a result, Mecklenburg also reported more residents drawing jobless benefits during the month. The rolls of the unemployment grew by 47 people in December. To claim VEC unemployment benefits, idled workers must demonstrate they are actively seeking employment or job and career training opportunities.

A growing labor force is generally seen as an indication of a strengthening jobs market, as people are enticed back into the pool by better opportunities for work and career. An improving job market usually goes hand-in-hand with population gains, or at least a slower rate of decline for areas that are shedding residents.

The picture in Mecklenburg was reflected elsewhere in the surrounding Southside area, as both Halifax and Brunswick counties reported positive job growth between November and December.

Halifax County added 109 workers to its active labor force and 112 new jobs, which kept the unemployment rate unchanged at 3.6 percent in December.

Brunswick County’s labor pool was essentially the same — growing by one person from November to December — but the county added 10 new jobs and saw jobless claims fall by nine. These small numbers were enough to drive down Brunswick’s unemployment rate from 4.2 percent in November to 4.0 percent in December.

In a year-to-year comparison, Mecklenburg County’s labor market showed marked improvement in 2019. In December 2018, Mecklenburg reported a total of 11,775 jobs. A year later, in December 2019, the county had 12,516 people at work.

In Charlotte County, the unemployment rate climbed from 3.1 percent in November to 3.6 percent in December. The jobless rate remained fixed in Pittsylvania County at 2.9 percent. In Lunenburg County, the rate inched up from 2.7 percent in November to 2.8 percent in December.

The official unemployment rate for all of Virginia held steady between November and December at 2.5 percent. The national jobless rate rose slightly, from 3.3 to 3.4 percent.

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