Unemployment is down across Virginia, although the numbers vary between metropolitan areas. Michael Pope is digging into the data.
Lynchburg has the highest unemployment rate among metropolitan areas in Virginia, 4.4%, according to new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up about two tenths of a percent from Lynchburg’s unemployment rate last year at this time. Christine Kennedy at the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance says the city is seeing a number of emerging sectors: wireless infrastructure and communications, cybersecurity, alternative energy and health care.
“We’re seeing a growth in these industries. But what that’s causing is a skill gap issue. So the unemployment, in many cases, is happening because we’ve got to upscale our existing workers to meet the need.”
In other words, she says, the jobs are there. But the skilled workers are not. Terry Clower at George Mason University says Lynchburg is actually doing pretty well.
“In Lynchburg, it’s a point or two higher than in some of the other areas and that’s not of particular concern. And indeed that could be an indicator that people are reentering the job market.”
Those people have not been counted in the job market because they stopped looking for work. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show about 500 people have been added to the Lynchburg labor force over the last year and a half. That’s a phenomenon that’s happening all across Virginia, which has added about 90,000 workers to the labor force since January 2016.