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FairfaxBusinessData: Regional jobs picture continues to brighten, but slowly

Data: Regional jobs picture continues to brighten, but slowly

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The Washington metropolitan area continued to crawl out of its COVID-induced spike in joblessness in February, but continues to have a long way to go to regain the strength it had headed into the pandemic.

With 3,316,299 metro-area residents in the civilian workforce and 189,442 looking for jobs, the local region’s jobless rate stood at 5.7 percent in March, according to figures reported April 7 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s down from 6 percent to start the year, but remains a tick over twice the rate of 2.8 percent recorded in February 2020, the last month before the nation’s economy began contracting due to the pandemic.

The Washington region was one of 383 of the nation’s 389 metro corridors to record higher year-over-year joblessness, with four showing improvements and two effectively unchanged. A total of 48 of those metro areas had jobless rates less than 4 percent, while 18 areas had rates of more than 10 percent.


Among all metro areas nationally, the best jobs picture was found in Logan (Utah), with a jobless rate of 2.6 percent. The highest rate was found in El Centro (Calif.) at 15.9 percent.

Among the 51 metro areas with populations of more than a million, Birmingham (3.5 percent) and Salt Lake City (3.6 percent) had the lowest unemployment rates, with Los Angeles (9.9 percent) and New York City (9.8 percent) the highest.

(Among the 51 high-population areas, just one – Cleveland – reported lower joblessness than a year before.)

Some good news coming out of the February data: For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, no state had a jobless rate above 10 percent for the month, with Hawaii (9.2 percent) and New York (8.9 percent) the highest.

For the month, 27 states had rates lower than the national jobless rate of 6.6 percent for the month, 12 states (plus the District of Columbia) were higher and 11 were essentially the same.

The Midwest (minus Illinois) had some of the strongest jobs pictures, while much of the Northeast corridor – along with California, Nevada and New Mexico – remained in the employment doldrums.

In Virginia, February’s jobless rate of 5.4 percent was down slightly from January but more than twice the rate of 2.5 percent from February 2020. For the month, the state reported 4.23 million in the civilian workforce and 227,700 looking for jobs.

Among various metro areas of Virginia (outside the Washington region), Charlottesville and Lynchburg each had state-low jobless rates of 4.5 percent, while Hampton Roads posted the highest rate, at 6.2 percent.

All the Virginia metro corridors showed improvement from a month before, but remained well above the jobless rates recorded in February 2020.

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