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Unemployment rate rises to 9.3 percent

SoVaNow.com / March 26, 2014
After six months of gradual improvement, unemployment spiked upward in Mecklenburg County and across Southside Virginia in January.

The jobless rate in Mecklenburg County climbed to 9.3 percent, up from 8.5 percent in December 2013. Other counties throughout the region posted similar results: Brunswick County saw unemployment rise to 9.9 percent in January from 8.8 percent the month before, and Halifax County’s jobless rate went from 8.1 percent to 9.1 percent.

January is the latest month for which figures are available from the Virginia Employment Commission.

Ann D. Lang, Senior Economist with the VEC, attributed the spikes in unemployment to seasonal post-holiday cutbacks in the retail and leisure and hospitality industries.

In sharp contrast to the employment picture in Southside, the state of Virginia posted its lowest unemployment in more than five years, with a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.0 percent. At the same time, the state labor force grew by nearly 14,000 workers in January.

Consistent with the statewide trend, both Brunswick and Halifax counties saw slight growth in the size of their civilian labor forces between December and January. However, the available labor pool in Mecklenburg County continued on a downward spiral. The civilian labor force represents the number of people in the county with a job or who are actively seeking work.

Halifax County showed the biggest gains — its labor force grew by 134 people, followed by Brunswick County with 124. Mecklenburg County lost 51 members of the labor force.

A declining civilian labor force generally indicates that many people have given up looking for employment.

In the past seven months, Mecklenburg County’s available workforce has shrunk by nearly 5 percent, Halifax County’s by 1.4 percent and Brunswick County’s by two-tenths percent.

While the size of the labor force in all three counties is down, unemployment rates in January 2014 are much better than the rates posted during the same month a year ago. Then, the counties were staring at unemployment rates ranging from a low of 9.9 percent in Halifax County to a high of 11.4 percent in Brunswick County.

Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate in January 2013 was 10.7 percent.

Elsewhere locally, Lunenburg County posted a 7.2 percent unemployment rate in January, up from 6.5 percent in December, and Charlotte County’s unemployment rate rose from 6.2 percent in December to 7.5 percent in January.

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