Va. unemployment rate hits six-year high

The unemployment rate in Virginia rose slightly to 4.2 percent in August, making it the highest August jobless rate in six years, according to the state Employment Commission.

In Prince William, the unemployment rate rose from 3.2 percent in July to 3.5 percent in August, with 5,490 people filing for benefits.

The Manassas jobless rate grew from 4.3 percent to 4.6 percent in August, with 964 people claiming unemployment. In Manassas Park, the rate was 2.8 percent, with 134 jobless workers.

“They all seem to be up a little bit because we’re gradually getting more and more claims from WorldCom and a few more people from the airlines,” said William F. Mezger, chief economist for the state Employment Commission.

The nation-wide unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in August.

Mezger said the slight increase across the state simply reflects a seasonal decrease in the work force. The labor force dropped by about 36,000 when students left their summer jobs and headed back to school.

The number of jobless workers grew by 2,700 to 161,000 in August. It normally takes a change of 3,800 workers to move the unemployment rate by 0.1 percent, but since the work force was smaller, fewer people were needed to create a shift in the rate.

Nine state jurisdictions had double-digit unemployment, mostly in the south or southwest where furniture, textile and apparel plants are the biggest industries.

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