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Job picture mixed in July / September 04, 2019

The job market in July was a mixed bag across Southside Virginia, according to figures released this week by the Virginia Employment Commission.

While Mecklenburg County saw a slight dip in its jobless rate — from 4.3 percent in June to 4.2 percent in July — the county saw little job growth. The number of employed workers rose only by eight, and the labor force shrank in size by an equal number, going from 12,856 to 12,848.

The VEC reported 16 fewer jobless claims in July.

Brunswick County also saw its unemployment rate dip a tenth of a percent from June to July, going from 4.7 percent down to 4.6 percent. But that change came at the expense of jobs and workers.

In June, Brunswick County had 6,037 available workers of whom 5,753 held jobs. Another 284 were actively seeking employment. One month later, Brunswick County shed 20 workers (down to 6,017), lost 15 jobs (down to 5,738), and only 279 active members of the work force were seeking employment, down by five.

Halifax County’s economy appeared to take the biggest hit between June and July, shedding 832 workers and 849 jobs, according to official statistics. However, no major employer in the area reported a plant closure or significant layoffs. The result nevertheless was a spike in the unemployment rate from 4.3 percent in June to 4.7 percent in July.

Generally, job market downturns such as the one suggested by the Halifax County figures would be accompanied by a spike in jobless claims, according to Conrad Buckler, a senior economist with the VEC in Richmond. Between June and July, the number of claims climbed from 667 to 694, an increase of only 27.

Additionally, mass layoffs or plant closures are, by law, to be disclosed in advance to the Virginia Employment Commission. Yet no layoffs or closures for the area are indicated on the current list of warn notices, part of the Virginia Workforce Network’s Rapid Response program.

Buckler expressed skepticism about the accuracy of the employment numbers reported by Halifax County, saying the hiccup could be a failure by individual employers to report their figures to the VEC in timely fashion. If that is the reason for the sharp rise in Halifax’s unemployment rate, Bucker suggested the reported figures are likely to be revised when the month-to-month date is updated.

Aside from the bleak numbers posted by Halifax County, most of other Southside localities saw virtually no change in their numbers, or only modest shifts in one direction or the other:

» In Lunenburg County, the unemployment rate rose to 3.5 percent in July from 3.3 percent in June as the county shed 20 workers from its labor force, and 30 jobs. There were also 10 additional unemployment claims.

» In Charlotte County, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in July from 3.9 percent in June. Despite that decline, Charlotte had slightly fewer jobs overall in July: 5,212, down from 5,218 in June.

» Danville’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent, although the city did see a gain of 125 jobs, going from 18,295 in June to 18,420 in July.

Across Virginia, the July unemployment rate was 2.9 percent, while the figure nationally was 3.7 percent.

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