Economic issues for average Virginians bad, and going to get worse

Staff Report

Struggles to date for average Virginians since the start of the recession in December 2007 are “just the tip of the iceberg,” said Michael Cassidy, the executive director of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, which released a report today detailing the present and near-term future impacts of the economic downturn on workers and their families.

“Sharp increases in unemployment, wage declines for most workers and continued deterioration in workers’ health-insurance coverage has been coupled with the fact that Virginia workers pay the greatest share of insurance premiums in the country. As the effects of the recession drag on, these challenges will only increase,” said Cassidy.

Highlights from the report:
– Virginia has lost more than 125,000 jobs since the start of the recession. During the expansion period prior to this time, the state added 276,600 jobs.
– While it took the state six years to realize this gain, it has taken only 22 months for Virginia to see one in three of these jobs disappear. That’s a job-growth rate of about 3,700 jobs per month during the expansion, and an average rate of job loss of more than 5,700 jobs a month during the recession.
– Virginia’s increase in labor force participation between 2007 and 2008 was larger than that of any other state. Roughly 70 percent of Virginia’s working age population was either employed or actively seeking employment in 2008.
– An increasing share of Virginians age 55 and older is participating in the labor force. In 2008, 44.5 percent of Virginians in this age group were working or seeking work — compared to just 39.4 percent nationally.
– Virginia’s median hourly wage places it as the 12th highest in the nation. Throughout the wage distribution, Virginia workers earn more than their regional and national counterparts. However, since 2001, Virginia wage earners who are below the median have actually lost ground in terms of real wages.

“Finding constructive ways to address the growing needs of Virginia’s workforce should be at the center of policy debates in our state. Virginia workers deserve nothing less,” said Cassidy.

More information online – http://bit.ly/8JTl7r.

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