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Va. sees lowest-ever percentage of adults in workforce

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Virginia in 2020 was one of 15 states nationally to have the lowest percentage of its adult population in the workforce since record-keeping began 45 years ago, according to new federal data.

A total of 60.6 percent of Virginians age 16 and older (and not incarcerated or in group-home settings) were in the workforce last year, according to year-end data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While higher than the national average of 56.8 percent, Virginia’s figure was down from the rate of 64.5 percent recorded in 2019.

Similar data have been compiled since 1976. Figures for 2020 were reported March 3.


Federal officials also reported Virginia’s average unemployment rate for 2020 was 6.2 percent, up from 2.7 percent a year before but below the U.S. average jobless rate of 8.1 percent.

To what will be the surprise of absolutely no one, the average unemployment rate in all 50 states was higher in 2020 than in 2019.

“The deterioration in the labor market in 2020 reflected the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,” federal officials said.

In 2020, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had over-the-year decreases in their employment-population ratios. The largest of these declines occurred in Nevada (-8.1 percentage points), Hawaii (-7.1 points) and Massachusetts (-6.1 points). Three additional states recorded ratio decreases of at least 5 percentage points.

The smallest over-the-year decrease occurred in Nebraska (-1.5 percentage points), followed by South Dakota and Wyoming (-1.7 points each).

West Virginia and Mississippi had the lowest proportions of employed persons among the states, 50.3 percent and 50.6 percent, respectively. Nebraska had the highest employment-population ratio, 66.7 percent, followed by North Dakota, 66 percent.

All four census regions of the country had decreases in their employment-population ratios The Northeast (-4.6 percentage points) and West (-4.5 points) had the largest ratio decreases. The South, 56 percent, and West, 56.3 percent, had the lowest ratios, while the Midwest had the highest, 59.1 percent.

In 2020, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment-rate increases, the largest of which occurred in Hawaii (+9.1 percentage points) and Nevada (+8.9 points). Seven additional states recorded rate increases of at least 5 percentage points from 2019.

Nebraska and South Dakota had the smallest rate increases (+1.2 and +1.6 points, respectively).

The Northeast, 9.2 percent, and West, 9 percent, registered jobless rates higher than the U.S. rate in 2020, while the Midwest and South, 7.6 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively, each had rates below the national figure.

All nine geographic divisions had over-the-year unemployment-rate increases in 2020, with the largest of these occurring in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific (+5.8 and +5.6 percentage points, respectively). The divisions with the smallest rate increases were the West North Central (+2.6 percentage points) and East South Central (+3.2 points).

Four states reported jobless rates of 10 percent or more in 2020: Nevada, 12.8 percent; Hawaii, 11.6 percent; California, 10.1 percent; and New York, 10 percent. Nebraska and South Dakota had the lowest jobless rates among the states, 4.2 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

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