Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: June 23, 2021
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alenaa Yarmosky, | Virginia Employment Commission:

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Fell to 4.5 Percent in May

Labor force expanded and number of employed residents increased

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2-percentage point to 4.5 percent in May, which is 4.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.8 percent.

“More people are working in Virginia and our recovery is outpacing the rest of the country,” said Governor Northam. “This week, we reached the 70 percent vaccination benchmark, and we did it two weeks ahead of the nationwide July 4 target. In the weeks and months ahead, we will remain focused on helping the communities that COVID-19 hit hardest and making sure all Virginians have the resources they need to thrive.”

Virginia had the third lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, along with Kentucky, among the Southeast states. The only states with lower unemployment were Alabama and Georgia.

“Virginia’s unemployment rate continues to drop and more people are returning to the workforce—two important indications about the strength of our economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “It’s vitally important that every Virginian does their civic duty and gets vaccinated so we can maintain this positive momentum.”

Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 3,500 jobs in May. The labor force increased by 4,042 to 4,229,852, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 8,061. The number of employed residents rose by 12,103 to 4,040,585. In May 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 7.0 percent.

“With over 4.2 million Virginians fully vaccinated, we are reaching what looks like the final stages of this pandemic,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our Administration is committed to helping Virginians return to work and make sure that they have the skills and support they need to thrive in the post-pandemic job market.”

The private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 256,900 jobs, while employment in the public sector lost 1,600 jobs in May. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of the 11 major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job increase occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 104,600 jobs, or 45.7 percent. The next largest over-the-year job increase occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities, up 59,800 jobs, or 10.0 percent. Education and health services experienced the third largest over-the-year job increase of 31,500 jobs, or 6.3 percent.

For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at

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