- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

RICHMOND | Virginia’s February jobless rate rose to its highest level since 1992, fueled in part by job seekers drawn to the state by its relatively lower unemployment, a labor analyst said Wednesday.

The Virginia Employment Commission reported that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for February was 7 percent, up from the January mark of 6.4 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted rate was 6.6 percent.

The District and Maryland earlier reported seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of 9.9 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively, in February.

The U.S. jobless rate in February was 8.9 percent.

Northern Virginia continued to claim the state’s lowest rate - 5.2 percent - and that apparently has attracted job seekers to the region.

Virginia’s civilian labor force increased by 18,000 from January to February, a period that typically sees flat growth, said William F. Mezger, the commission’s chief economist.

Northern Virginia, a center for government and government-related jobs, is “still attracting some people because it’s one of the best job markets in the country,” he said.

Mr. Mezger also attributed part of the labor force increase to native Virginians laid off in other states and returning home.

The January-to-February increase in unemployment totaled 27,000 people. Thirty-four jurisdictions reported double-digit unemployment in February.

Among the state’s 10 metropolitan areas, the Danville region continued to claim the highest rate - 12.3 percent - though it improved slightly from the January mark of 13.9 percent.

Hampton Roads saw unemployment rise to 7.2 percent in February, up one-half of 1 percent.

The five jurisdictions below 5 percent unemployment in February were Arlington County, 4.4 percent; Fairfax County, 4.7 percent; Loudoun County, 4.8 percent; the city of Poquoson, 4.8 percent; and Albemarle County, 4.9 percent.

The city of Martinsville had the state’s highest rate: 20.2 percent.

The Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package includes money that will flow to states for public works projects, help them defray budget cuts, extend unemployment benefits and boost food stamp benefits. The administration also is counting on programs to prop up financial companies and reduce home foreclosures to help turn the economy around.

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