County unemployment rate drops

Unemployment rates in the Prince William County area and across the state dropped in October — marking the first time in nearly two years that Virginia’s jobless rate decreased from month-to-month.

In Prince William, unemployment dropped from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent last month, with 4,960 people claiming unemployment benefits.

The Manassas jobless rate also dropped from 3.5 to 3.2 percent, with 657 people unemployed. In Manassas Park, the rate went from 3.1 percent to 2.7, with 125 people claiming unemployment.

The overall unemployment rate for the state was higher than area jurisdictions — 3.8 percent — but still the lowest it has been since August 2001 and considerably lower than the national rate of 5.3 percent, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The number of jobless workers in the state dropped by 12,700 people to 141,800 in October. About 48,000 people were drawing unemployment benefits.

The drop is partially due to the retail industry gearing up for the holidays and the start of the new school year, which adds thousands of jobs, according to William Mezger, chief economist for the VEC.

All eight of the metropolitan areas the VEC tracks showed improvement in unemployment rates. Charlottesville had the lowest jobless rate at 2.3 percent, while Danville had the highest at 6.4 percent –a 1.1 percentage point drop from September.

The biggest gains in jobs were in the retail and government industry. The continued staffing of schools and colleges added 16,100 jobs and trade positions rose by 2,200.

Jobs dropped in several industries, including the service sector, which saw a loss of 4,200 jobs. The industry traditionally sees a drop-off in autumn when resorts and theme parks close for the season. Construction jobs fell by 1,700, transportation and utility jobs fell by 600, and manufacturing jobs fell by 800 in October.

With the drop in October unemployment, it appears the fourth quarter may turn out to be typical, with rising employment as holiday activities peak, according to Mezger.

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