- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

RICHMOND | Virginia recorded its highest unemployment rate in nearly 17 years in January, hitting 6.4 percent, the state reported Friday.

From a high of 14 percent in the Danville area to a low of 3.7 percent in Arlington County, the 51,700 newly jobless from December to January came from every part of the state and every employment sector.

The seasonally unadjusted January rate was the highest since June 1992, the Virginia Employment Commission said. December’s mark was 5.1 percent.

The U.S. jobless rate was 8.5 percent in January.

The Virginia jobless rate for January, when adjusted for seasonal patterns, was 6 percent. The count does not include “discouraged unemployed” - people who have stopped looking for work because they believe there are no jobs to be found.

“Generally speaking, if you added those in it would add about 2 percent to the unemployment rate,” said William F. Mezger, the commission’s chief economist.

The number of unemployed who quit looking for work will increase as the recession lengthens and unemployment benefits dry up, Mr. Mezger said.

Statewide, 89,000 people were drawing unemployment benefits in January, up 32,000 from December.

Danville’s unemployment increased from 11.1 percent in December, and was double the rate of January 2008. The city’s manufacturing-based economy has suffered along with the decline in the U.S. textile and apparel industry.

Goodyear, Danville’s largest employer, announced more than 400 layoffs in March.

The January statewide rate also reflected seasonal holiday factory furloughs that were extended because of the worsening economy, Mr. Mezger said.

The Northern Virginia area, including Arlington County, was the only region reporting an unemployment rate below 5 percent in January, the commission reported. Government, and the industries it attracts, traditionally insulate Northern Virginia from down economic times.

Arlington County’s rate in December was 3.1.

Other January rates from the state’s 10 metropolitan areas included Richmond, 6.9 percent, up from 5.6 percent; Roanoke, 6.5 percent, up from 5.1 percent; and Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach, Newport News and the Norfolk area), 6.7 percent, up from 5.4 percent.

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