Virginia’s unemployment rate surged into double digits in April as the coronavirus pandemic hit every industry in the state, forcing businesses and schools to close and putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work.
The state’s jobless rate stood at 10.6% in April, the Virginia Employment Commission reported Friday.
That’s the highest monthly rate since the current data collection methods started in 1976.
The numbers are “stark,” said Sonya Waddell, a vice president and economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
“We will absolutely see that unemployment rate go up in May, and probably in June, too,” Waddell said. “The hope is we start to see that number come down in July and through the rest of the year.”
That is difficult to predict, though, Waddell said, because coronavirus infection rates are difficult to predict. Economic recovery will depend a lot on that and on how confident consumers will be to go out and shop and travel, and how confident businesses are to reopen.
Previously, the state’s highest modern jobless rate was 7.9%, at the end of a severe recession in 1982. During the Great Recession of the late 2000s, caused by a housing market downturn and financial crisis, the state’s rate hit a high of 7.5% in February 2010.
Before the pandemic, Virginia had experienced more than six years of employment growth.
The state’s unemployment rate was 2.9% in April 2019 but increased to 3.3% two months ago, but the data for that month was collected before the worst of the coronavirus-related job losses hit the state.
The Richmond region lost 70,300 jobs, down about 10.2% from March, the Virginia Employment Commission report showed. The unemployment rate for the Richmond area and other regions in the state will be released on June 3.
About 450,000 Virginians were counted as unemployed in April, out of a total workforce of almost 4.3 million. That was up from 126,300 people who were counted as unemployed a year ago in April when the state’s economy was doing historically well.
Employment fell from March to April in all of the major industry sectors that the government tracks, the commission said.
The state suffered particularly heavy job losses in the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes businesses that have been forced to shut down or scale back operations because of coronavirus-related restrictions and a collapse in demand for tourism, restaurants, events, entertainment venues and hotels.
That industry lost 161,400 jobs from March to April, but it still employed 240,800 in Virginia. Since April 2019, however, the industry has lost a little more than 41% of its jobs.
One of Virginia’s largest job sector — education and health services — lost 57,400 jobs from March to April, a 10.3% drop.
Another vitally important job sector for Virginia — professional and business services, which historically has about 19% of the state’s overall employment — lost 43,700 jobs, or down 5.6%, month-over-month, and lost 33,200 jobs compared with a year ago in April. The sector still employed about 730,200 people.
Government employment dropped by 31,500 jobs in April, with local governments shedding 19,000 jobs. State government lost 11,600 jobs, and federal employment slipped by 900 jobs.
The manufacturing sector, which generally has continued to operate because it is considered essential to produce necessary goods, lost 6,300 jobs from March to April.
The finance sector added jobs year-over-year, gaining 2,900 jobs, or up 1.4%. But employment in that sector month-over-month was down 2.3%, or 5,100 jobs.
Unemployment rates were higher in April in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
The national unemployment rate stood at 14.7%, up 10.3 percentage points from the previous month and 11 percentage points higher than in April 2019. The Labor Department said jobless rates in 43 states set record highs in April.
Nationwide, Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in April at 28.2%, followed by Michigan at 22.7%, and Hawaii at 22.3%.
Among Virginia’s neighboring states, North Carolina’s rate was 12.2%, Maryland’s was 9.9%, and Tennessee’s was 14.7%.