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Inside the Numbers: Local economy outpacing neighbors, state

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The local economy in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro is beginning to get back toward pre-shutdown levels in terms of the local job situation.

This is based on an analysis of data from the Virginia Employment Commission, which shows our sister local economies in the Charlottesville and Harrisonburg metropolitan service areas also gaining in terms of jobs, but more slowly.

And the number of people employed statewide – 3,984,625, according to the VEC – is still down 7.2 percent from where we were in March, when there were just under 4.3 million Virginians employed as Gov. Ralph Northam directed large swaths of the state economy to shut down at the heart of his administration’s response to COVID-19.

This is where the trope that is the unemployment rate can be deceiving. The unemployment rate at the depth of the pandemic shutdown was 10.8 percent statewide in April, and it’s at 8.5 percent as of the most recent reporting, in June, a decrease of 2.3 percent, which looks great on paper, but there were still 312,917 less Virginians working as of this June reporting than there were back in March.

The other moving number: the size of the workforce decreased from 4,445,359 in March to 4,356,400 in June, an indication that 88,959 people, 2.0 percent of the workforce, has at least temporarily stopped looking for work.

Deep dive into the local numbers

Back to the local scene: there were 57,998 people in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro employed in June, down 786 from back in March, a drop of just 1.3 percent, so, that’s better, much better, actually, relative to the statewide drop, anyway.

Of note here is that the local workforce actually grew from March to June: from 60,610 in March to 62,634 in June, an increase of 1,754, or 2.9 percent.

The unemployment rate for the region back in April was 9.5 percent, and in June, it was down to 7.0 percent, a 2.5 percent drop.

Pre-shutdown, the unemployment rate for the local MSA was 3.0 percent, so, still work to do.

There’s much more work to do in our sister local economies.

The Harrisonburg MSA has lost 5,709 jobs since March – from 64,704 to 58,995, a drop of 8.8 percent.

The Charlottesville MSA has lost 9,446 jobs since March – from 121,342 to 111,896, a drop of 7.8 percent.

The labor forces in both localities dropped significantly – in the Harrisonburg MSA, from 66,834 in March to 64,015 in June, a drop of 4.2 percent; and in the Charlottesville MSA, from 124,988 in March to 121,727 in June, a drop of 2.6 percent.

The unemployment rates in the two, which you know by now don’t mean all that much: the Harrisonburg MSA was at 3.2 percent in March, 10.2 percent in April, then improving to 7.8 percent in June; and in the Charlottesville MSA, the jobless rate was at 2.9 percent in March, 9.6 percent in April, and 8.1 percent in June.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press