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Unemployment spikes in January in county, region

SoVaNow.com / March 24, 2021
Despite modest job growth in January, Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate for the month shot up by 1.4 percent as more workers entered the active labor force than positions opened up to employ them.

Mecklenburg saw its jobless rate jump from 5 percent in December to 6.4 percent in January, according to the Virginia Employment Commission, which released its latest local jobs report on Monday. Across much of Southside Virginia, localities experienced job growth, but the influx of job seekers to the active labor pool pushed up jobless rates in most areas.

Mecklenburg’s labor pool climbed from 12,224 people in December to 12,684 in January, an increase of 460. During that same period the county added 294 jobs, yet first-time unemployment claims rose from 644 to 810.

The jobless rate in Mecklenburg County had been trending downward since April 2020, when unemployment peaked at 10.2 percent as Virginia imposed lockdowns due to the pandemic. January mark the first month since September 2020 that Mecklenburg’s unemployment rate has risen.

The story much was much the same in Brunswick County, where the jobless rate rose by 1.1 percent between December and January, ending at 8.1 percent. While Brunswick saw 18 jobs created, 83 people joined the active labor pool, which includes those who are both employed or actively looking for a job.

Halifax County was the outlier of the three counties, with fewer jobs even as more active job seekers entered the workforce. Halifax also saw 192 new unemployment claims filed in January. The county’s jobless rate rose by 1.4 percent, to 6.5 percent in January from 5.1 percent in December.

In December, Halifax County’s civilian labor pool stood at 15,200 individuals and jobs numbered 14,423. In January, the labor force dropped by 292 workers to 14,902, and the number of jobs had plummeted to 13,939.

Pittsylvania and Lunenburg counties also added both workers and jobs to their local economies in January. Pittsylvania’s labor force grew by 581 and the number of jobs by 198 and Lunenburg added 223 workers to the labor force and 180 jobs.

In a year-over-year comparison, Mecklenburg County is the only one of the three counties in the Southside Planning District — along with Brunswick and Halifax — to come out ahead in January in terms of both the size of its work force and total number of jobs. Compared to January 2020, prior to the pandemic, the January 2021 data show that Mecklenburg County is up by 40 jobs, and the active labor pool has grown by 810 active workers and job seekers.

By contrast, Halifax County has seen its labor pool dwindle by 756 people — from 15,664 workers and job seekers in January 2020 to 14,908 in January 2021. Halifax also has shed nearly 1,000 jobs in the span of a year — with 14,922 jobs in January 2020, and 13,939 in January 2021.

Brunswick County also experienced losses. Between January 2020 and January 2021, the county shed 211 workers and 366 jobs.

Elsewhere:

The unemployment rate in Charlotte County stood at 5.4 percent in January, up from 4.3 percent the month before.

Lunenburg County reported the lowest percent increase in unemployment – from 4.7 percent in December to 5.5 percent in January.

Pittsylvania County’s jobless rate rose 1.8 percent from 4.6 percent in December to 6.4 percent in January.

The January jobless rate for Virginia was 5.7 percent and in the United States it was 6.8 percent. The VEC local job market data is seasonally unadjusted.

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