Virginia unemployment drops to lowest since before pandemic, but staffing problems persist | State and Regional News

RICHMOND — Virginia’s labor force expanded by 6,250 employees last month, dropping”the state unemployment rate to 2.8%, the lowest it has been since the month before the COVID-19 pandemic began more than 28 months ago.

But the industry with the biggest job gains — hotels and restaurants — is still struggling to find employees to fill jobs.

“The June unemployment rate dropping to 2.8% is promising news for Virginia’s economic health and is a welcome return to pre-pandemic unemployment levels,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement following the release of monthly employment data by the Virginia Employment Commission on Friday.

“In such a competitive labor market, we remain committed to expanding workforce development opportunities for Virginians,” he said.

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For Youngkin, the most important number is the more than 4.2 million Virginians who are employed, a gain of 13,792 from May to June, according to the household survey that the Virginia Employment Commission released on Friday.

Elected last fall partly on a commitment to accelerate the state’s recovery of jobs lost during the pandemic, the governor estimated Virginia has added almost 94,000 employed residents since Feb. 1, about two weeks after he took office.

“While the 94,000 job additions is promising, we must remain vigilant regarding the workforce participation rate, which does continue to lag,” Youngkin said. “I am focused on increasing Virginia’s participation rate across the commonwealth.”

Virginia’s labor force participation rate remained unchanged in June at 63.8%, about 7 percentage points lower than its peak in 1992. The state labor force rose to nearly 4.4 million Virginia residents last month, as the number of unemployed residents declined by 7,542 people.

But Virginia businesses and other employers continue to struggle to fill jobs and retain workers almost 2½

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