- Associated Press - Friday, September 16, 2011

RICHMOND — Virginia’s unemployment rate has increased for the second time in more than a year, but still remains below the national average.

The U.S. Labor Department said Friday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in August was 6.3 percent.

The rate has risen over the last few months from 6 percent in June and 6.1 percent in July, when experts said the increase wasn’t “measurably different.” But the Labor Department said August’s rate was a statistically significant change from a month earlier. It’s still better than the 6.8 percent rate a year ago.

Virginia’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate had been decreasing since peaking at 7.2 percent from December 2009 to February 2010.

The Virginia Employment Commission said the number of unemployed increased by 9,535, or 3.7 percent, in August, the largest monthly gain since April 2009.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty in the economy. Consumers are tentative as well as businesses,” said Ann Lang, a senior economist with the state agency. “There’s this pattern of an increasing number of unemployed. It’s definitely not the way you want it to move … but we’re not as bad off as some of the other (states).”

The national unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent for the second straight month. Unemployment rates rose in a majority of states for a third straight month, further proof that job growth is weak nationwide. Rates increased in 26 states. They fell in 12 and remained unchanged in 12.

Nationwide, hiring fell significantly in August and the economy added no new net jobs.

Virginia’s unadjusted unemployment rate increased to 6.5 percent in August, below the 6.9 percent rate a year ago. August is usually a transition month between summer and fall labor markets when rates normally decline because students quit summer jobs, the state agency said. But the labor force didn’t contract as much as usual and the number of unemployed increased a “considerable amount.”

The state’s nonfarm payroll employment fell by 9,500 jobs in August with decreases in total government, the information sector, and leisure and hospitality. Professional and business services also saw its second monthly decline after adding jobs the previous five months.

Private education and health services, construction, trade and transportation, finance, and mining all added jobs in August.

State officials said 54,043 Virginians were receiving regular unemployment benefits in August, down from 55,195 in July and down from 64,414 in August 2010.