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Jobless rate falls to 3.8 percent / December 05, 2018

Mecklenburg County’s job market continued its positive trend in October as the number of workers and job seekers rose for a second consecutive month.

Mecklenburg added 50 new jobs and 30 workers to the active labor pool as the local unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in October, according to data released last week by the Virginia Employment Commission. The county’s unemployment rate in September was 3.9 percent.

It’s the lowest jobless rate since December of 2000, when unemployment in Mecklenburg stood at 2.9 percent. Within a month, that jobless rate had climbed to 4.5 percent.

The decline in the official number does not tell the full story of Mecklenburg’s economy, however. For the most part, the numbers suggest the county has never recovered from plant closings over the last 17 years: Russell Stover with its loss of nearly 700 jobs in 2001, followed in 2006 by the Burlington plant and the loss of another approximately 1,100 jobs, and then International Veneer’s closing in 2013 with the resulting loss of 100 jobs.

The drain continued as Stage Stores shuttered its South Hill corporate offices in 2013, taking away 180 jobs and another 100 jobs a couple of years later when it also ended operations from its South Hill Distribution Center.

In December 2000, Mecklenburg County’s workforce stood at 13,843 and the number of employed workers was 13,448. By October, its labor force was down to 12,048, of whom 11,589 were employed.

The employment picture in nearby counties was lackluster in October. Halifax County lost nearly 30 jobs and 20 workers from its labor force, between September and October, but is jobless rate held steady at 4.1 percent. Brunswick County’s labor force grew by nine workers and nine new jobs, but the unemployment rate stayed fixed at 4.5 percent. Lunenburg County’s unemployment rate as was unchanged at 3.1 percent despite adding 10 new workers to its labor pool and 10 new jobs.

The unemployment rate in Virginia during the same period remained at 2.8 percent, but the rate for the United States fell one tenth of a percent from 3.6 percent in September to 3.5 percent in October.

The Southside Planning District, which encompasses Halifax, Mecklenburg, and Brunswick counties, is in the bottom two among planning districts with the highest unemployment, with an average rate of 4.1 percent for October. It is only slightly higher than Cumberland Plateau PDC with an average jobless rate of 4.4 percent.

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