Whether I’m reading the newspaper or listening to the television or radio, it seems that the news about the economy is not improving much even though the recession is officially over.
The national unemployment rate remains near 10 percent. Home sales are bumping along their low points. And foreclosures continue to rise.
What does that mean for Virginia?
We need to remember that Virginia does not represent averages in the nation.
Virginia’s unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in September — the sixth best in the nation and well below the 9.6 percent national average. Only one of our 11 metropolitan areas — Danville — had a higher unemployment rate than the nation.
The lowest unemployment rate in the state was Northern Virginia at 5.1 percent.
Employment growth is also stronger in Virginia than the nation.
Nonfarm employment grew by 0.7 percent for the 12 months ending in September, compared with 0.3 percent in the nation.
Virginia is the 16th fastest growing state, adding 26,700 jobs for the 12 months ending in September when 18 states lost employment.
The Virginia housing market, although impaired, is doing better than the nation based on the percentage of mortgages that are delinquent by 60 days or more.
The state’s delinquency rate was 4.7 percent in the second quarter of 2010, based on TransUnion LLC’s Trend Data, compared with 6.7 percent in the nation and 10.5 percent in California.
For the first quarter of 2010, 14 of Virginia’s 134 localities had a 90-day delinquency rate that was higher than the 5.7 percent national rate. Manassas Park topped the list at 10.5 percent.
By contrast, 36 of California’s 58 counties had a higher rate than the nation with Riverside County topping the list at 15.9 percent.
Virginia’s better performance is based on a number of reasons. One important factor is the state’s diversity from geographic and industry perspectives.
The northern part of the state benefits greatly from its proximity to the nation’s capital as seen by the high government contract awards. The central portion of Virginia benefits from the stability of state government. Military and defense contracts support the eastern part. Manufacturing and mining are more concentrated in the south and western parts of the state compared with the state as a whole.
In the near term, this economic growth is likely to translate into a better holiday selling season for Virginia retailers. That will be a welcome change after two tough years for them.
Reprinted with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.