LABOR DAY 2019 finds the labor force in the Commonwealth of Virginia in exceedingly good shape. And that’s definitely something to celebrate.
According to the Virginia Employment Commission, the number of civilian workers taking home a paycheck reached a new record high of 4,389,783 in July after 13 straight months of labor force expansion.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the commonwealth fell to just 2.9 percent—the lowest it’s been in a decade and far below Virginia’s 7.5 percent unemployment rate in February 2010 at the height of the Great Recession. As of June, the unemployment rate in the City of Fredericksburg was slightly higher (3.6 percent), but still well below the city’s 10.4 percent unemployment rate a decade ago.
“From July 2018 to July 2019, Virginia’s seasonally adjusted total non-farm employment was up 23,000 jobs, or 0.6 percent,” the VEC reported. “Over-the-year employment growth in Virginia has been positive for 64 consecutive months and has continued to strengthen over the last several months. In July, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 29,600 jobs, while employment in the public sector decreased by 6,600 jobs.”
Many major industries in Virginia added workers, including mining, construction, manufacturing, finance, professional and business services, education, health services, and hospitality.
Although the government, transportation, utilities and information sectors shed some jobs since last year, they were not enough to offset the overall employment gains.
“The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 11,700 jobs (+2.9 percent),” according to the VEC. “The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in private education and health services, up 11,100 jobs (+2.0 percent). Professional and business services experienced the third largest over-the-year job gain of 6,600 jobs (+0.9 percent).”
These statistics show a healthy state economy with a still-growing professional and business sector, expanding health and education opportunities and robust tourism. Virginia’s economy is firing on all cylinders.
The commonwealth’s low unemployment rate mirrors the national unemployment rate, which is at a nearly 50-year low, with job prospects for African Americans and Hispanics at historic highs. In fact, a new wave of reverse black migration is underway—from Northern cities to Southern ones —as young black professionals take advantage of new employment opportunities.
Although government has the power to do many things, including regulating and taxing businesses, one thing it can’t do is force companies to create jobs and hire workers. Employers do that only when they feel optimistic about the U.S. economy in general and their state and local economies in particular. That’s easier to do when more people have jobs and money to spend on the goods and services businesses provide.
For individuals, having a job not only enables people to provide for their families, better their economic condition and contribute to the wider economy, it also gives them a sense of purpose and the dignity that comes from working for a living. And while unemployment kills dreams, having a job helps make them come true.
This is the kind of good news that people whose exclusive media diet consists of dystopian social media posts and political warfare don’t hear or talk about. And to be sure, there are still plenty of problems we as a society need to solve.
But on this Labor Day weekend, when we celebrate the American worker—the most resourceful and productive in the world—the fact that more Virginians than ever before have a job is reason enough to give thanks for the current prosperity, and pray that it continues.