Ramble On

Monday, November 23, 2009

Page County Unemployment Rate through September

We take the Page News and Courier (PN&C) by mail. It usually arrives on Thursday afternoons, so we sometimes take the time to read it and get a preview of what’s happening in Page County over the weekend – this is especially important if we have in mind a festival or an auction. Due to my accident last week we did not get out to the Hawksbill Cabin, but there were two items of interest I’ll highlight in last week’s paper.

The first item is the slow turnaround in Page County’s unemployment rate. This is a topic the blog has touched on frequently in the past – check the “Page County Economy” label attached to this post or in the list in the column on the right. The high unemployment numbers that were reported last spring – 17.4 percent in February and 15.9 percent in March – were especially of interest, as these items seemed to be the motivation for a lot of economic development planning.

A front page article last week, written by Luther Johnson, reported that the September rate had fallen to 9.8 percent – below double digits for the first time since December 2008. Johnson’s analysis reports that the state-wide level is 3.1 percent lower, at 6.7 percent, but that Page County’s rate is the same as the national average rate. The graph below compares Page County’s unemployment for the first nine months of the year with the average Virginia rate for the same period.

As always there are caveats to the calculation of this rate. For example, the unemployment rate traditionally doesn’t count workers not actively seeking work, including those whose unemployment benefits have expired – an ironic effect from the long-term unemployed falling out of the count.

While in the near term, Virginia expects employment to increase, and much of the rest of the country does too, Page County generally sees a seasonal decrease with the onset of winter. Much of the tourist trade falls off during this time and staffs are cut back at those businesses, and construction generally tapers off with the weather.

There’s a near term need to do something about job growth in the county. The Board of Supervisors have an updated 2008 plan – which I’ve also reviewed here on the blog – with a number of short- and long-term initiatives outlined for action. Seems it would be a good idea if the new board went back for a look at that plan and reprioritized their approach to dealing with Page County’s typical unemployment situation being worse than most other areas in the state.

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