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Mecklenburg job market shows strength in May / July 03, 2018

In May, Mecklenburg County added 145 new jobs to its economy while the unemployment rate held steady at 4.2 percent, according to the latest round of numbers released by the Virginia Employment Commission this week.

In April 2018, the size of the county’s labor force stood at 11,967 and the number of employed workers was 11,466. By May, the civilian labor force climbed to 12,118 — an additional 151 workers — and the number of jobs rose to 11,611, each a positive indicator of the health of the local economy.

This is also the second straight month that Mecklenburg’s unemployment rate of 4.2 percent bested the five-year average for Virginia, which stands at 4.6 percent.

Since January 2018, the employment picture in Mecklenburg County has continued to improve as 200 workers re-entered or joined the labor force. Since the beginning of the year, 398 new jobs have been added, and the number of unemployment claims has fallen from 687 in January to 507 in May.

While there have been a few backsliding moments, for the most part the Mecklenburg County economy is approaching its 17th month of recovery. This is reflected in the unemployment rate, which was 6.4 percent in January 2017, but dropped to 4.2 percent by April and held steady in May. These numbers have not been seen since before Burlington Industries and Russell Stover Candies closed the doors of their Clarksville plants.

The candy factory shut down at the end of 2001 and Burlington Industries followed five years later in 2006. However, the first wave of job losses for workers at Burlington Industries began in early 2002 when the textile giant ceased wool-combing operations in Clarksville.

The latest data also reflect a recovery after Stage Stores uprooted its corporate offices in South Hill at the end of 2017.

The May labor numbers paint a brighter employment picture across Southside Virginia. In nearby Halifax County, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent from 4.0 percent in May, and in Brunswick County, the jobless rate slid from 4.8 percent in April to 4.7 percent in May.

Lunenburg County was the only neighboring county to see an uptick in its employment rate. It went from 3.2 percent in April to 3.3 percent in May.

Elsewhere in the region:

Unemployment in Charlotte County held steady at 3.4 percent for the second straight month.

In Pittsylvania County, the jobless rate was 3.6 percent in May, down from 4.0 percent in April. The City of Danville saw its jobless rate slide from 6.2 percent in April to 5.4 percent in May.

In Virginia, the unemployment rate was 2.9 percent, compared to the national rate of 3.6 percent. Virginia, which had been ranked among the top ten states with the lowest jobless rates — it was number 6 in April, tied with Idaho, Nebraska, South Carolina and Tennessee — fell to number 13 in the national rankings for the month of May.

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