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Jobs in Virginia

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The commonwealth was ranked fifth in December 2009 with a 1.5 percent decline in employment over the previous year, equating to a loss of 54,700 jobs.

Wyoming performed the worst in the nation with a6.8 percent decline in employment over the same period. Not far behind: Nevada with a 6.6 percent drop.

Employment growth was evident only in the District of Columbia — up 0.9 percent over the previous year. Some might speculate that the stimulus funds are benefiting the nation’s capital more than other regions.

Although Virginia’s 1.5 percent decline in jobs is much better than the national 3.1 percent drop over the year ending with December 2009, it reflects the average across all counties and cities, which masks the undercurrents in the state’s regional economies.

Lynchburg and Harrisonburg were the only two metropolitan areas in the state that grew on a year-over-year basis. Of the nine remaining metro areas, Northern Virginia was closest to turning positive with only a 0.1 percent drop from the previous year.

Bristol had the largest percentage decline at 3.2 percent, and Richmond showed the largest number of jobs lost with a contraction of 5,029 compared with the prior year.

The best source of county and city data is dated but points out even more clearly how the averages can be misleading.

For the year ending with the second quarter of 2009, Surry County was the fastest-growing locality in the state, followed by Prince George County. Both grew more than 6 percent, and together they added about 850 jobs to the state economy over the year.

However, Arlington County produced the largest number of jobs: 3,005 over the year ending with the second quarter of 2009.

At the other extreme, Pulaski saw the greatest percentage decline over the same period, followed by Bath County. Employment declined nearly 14 percent over the year in both counties for a total loss of 2,200 jobs. The largest job loss, however, was 17,683 in Fairfax County.

Employment in the state contracted 3.0 percent for the year ending with the second quarter of 2009 with 61 counties or cities growing faster than the average and 73 growing slower.

During this period when most of the state and country were shedding jobs, 11 of Virginia’s counties and cities were expanding.

Viewing employment growth from this level of detail shows the need to go deeper than the average in assessing the overall health of the state.

Remember the adage: “With one foot in a bucket of ice water and one foot in a bucket of boiling water, you are, on the average, comfortable.”

Reprinted with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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