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The unemployment rate -- the number of currently unemployed people seeking jobs -- is a vital indicator of the health of a state's economy and the well-being of its citizens. As with nearly every state in the U.S., Virginia's unemployment rate dropped further in 2013 as the economy continued to recover from recession; Virginia's unemployment rate was lower than all but 12 other states.

Why is This Important?

Unemployment is a measure of how many people without jobs are actively seeking employment. Since most people earn a living through a job, unemployment is also a measure of how the economy is doing in providing opportunities for Virginians to support themselves and their families. Unemployment not only hurts the personal finances of those without work, but also reduces their participation in the overall economy. The inability to find work is also associated with psychological stress, financial hardship, health problems, and stress on family relationships.

How is Virginia Doing?

Unemployment Rate. See text for explanation.Only people who have jobs or who are actively seeking one are part of the labor force; unemployed people who have stopped looking for a job are no longer counted as members of the labor force. With a 5.6 percent unemployment rate, Virginia ranked 13th among the states in 2013. North Dakota again had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.9 percent. Virginia's rate was lower than its peers -- North Carolina (8.0%), Tennessee (8.2%), and Maryland (6.6%) -- and lower than the national rate of 7.4 percent in 2013.

Unemployment Rates by Virginia Region. See text for explanation.Within Virginia, the unemployment rate in 2013 (latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) varied from a high of 8.6 percent in the Southside region to a low of 4.4 percent in the Northern region. The Central, Valley, West Central, and Hampton Roads regions had rates between 5.6 to 6.0 percent. The Southwest region was the only region to see a slight uptick in unemployment, to 7.9 percent. In the last decade, the Southside and Southwest regions have routinely experienced higher rates of unemployment than other areas, largely due to the loss of manufacturing jobs and limited economic growth. For current monthly unemployment statistics, explore the state's Labor Market Information (LMI) tools.

Unemployment Rate, By Region. See text for explanation.In 2013, information services, manufacturing, construction, trade, and professional and business services saw increases in unemployment. Other industries saw declines in unemployment, including leisure and recreation and education and health services; those in transportation and utilities saw unemployment rates drop to under 3 percent.

What Influences Unemployment?

In the short run, unemployment is largely driven by national macro-economic factors. The jobless rate in Virginia moves with the national business cycle. This is especially true for industry-specific data, as it is highly dependent on national performance trends for each particular field.

Among the long-term factors that affect the unemployment rate in Virginia are those that also affect the state's overall competitiveness: education levels, infrastructure investments, diversity and balance in its industry mix, tax rates, and the regulatory environment. Any changes that improve Virginia's attractiveness as a place to live or to do business will, over longer periods of time, tend to reduce the unemployment rate.

What is the State's Role?

State government has a number of programs that are designed to reduce the level of unemployment or to lessen its impact on people's lives. Most of the work of the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is directly related to addressing unemployment issues, including worker training programs. The Unemployment Insurance Program provides temporary financial support for workers losing their jobs. The VEC also has numerous programs designed to match unemployed workers with firms that have jobs to fill. The Virginia Board of Workforce Development also works to combat unemployment through programs and incentives designed to improve the state's overall workorce quality.

Virginia's community colleges help retrain workers so that they can develop the skills they need to re-enter the workforce. Finally, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership works to bring new employers into the state and to encourage existing employers to keep jobs here.

Page last modified March 04, 2015
Unemployment Rates, by StateUnemployment Rate by Virginia Region. Unemployment Rates by Industry

State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.

Data Definitions and Sources

State and regional unemployment data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics 

State industry unemployment data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment

See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.

At a Glance:
Unemployment in Virginia

Performance Trend:  Trend is improving.
State Influence:

National Ranking: 13th lowest unemployment rate in the nation in 2013. 

Virginia by Region: Typically, urban corridors like those found in the Northern, Central and Hampton Roads regions fare better in terms of unemployment.

Related Agency Measures
State Programs & Initiatives

Unemployment Insurance: Virginia administers a variety of programs that may provide temporary income for workers who have become unemployed. Unemployment claims may be filed online or at any Virginia Employment Commission field office.

Job Seeker Services:   Employment assistance, access to thousands of job listings, and job seeker resources -- all available at your local Virginia Employment Commission office.

The Virginia Board of Workforce Development manages and helps develop many of the state's workforce initiatives. That includes a system of one-stop career centers that work to train and find jobs for area residents as part of a mandate under the Workforce Investment Act, which aims to increase the employment, retention, earnings and occupational skills of participants.

The Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare (VIEW) helps Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients prepare for and find jobs.

Additional Information

For the very latest statistics on jobs and unemployment in Virginia, check out the Labor Market Information pages. Maintained by the Virginia Employment Commission, the LMI provides a wealth of data on the state's labor force, industries and demographics, including ways to research and compare information down to the locality level.

Hire a Hero is a federal incentive program for employers in the U.S. to hire unemployed military veterans. Employers are eligible for a range of tax credits and discounts, plus aid in posting jobs and tracking paperwork.