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Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: March 15, 2021
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, | Virginia Employment Commission:

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s January Unemployment Rate Fell to 5.3 Percent

Payroll employment increased by 14,100 jobs

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percent to 5.3 percent in January, which is 2.8 percentage points above the rate from a year ago. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 14,100 jobs. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate, which was 6.3 percent in January and fell to 6.2 percent in February.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put incredible strain on our economy, we are hopeful that the unemployment rate will continue to fall as more people get the vaccine and return to work,” said Governor Northam. “Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, stimulus checks and extended unemployment assistance are now on the way to millions of Virginians, providing a critical boost to our recovery. We are turning the corner, and our Commonwealth is moving forward.”

At the beginning of each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) alters its release schedule so that it can make revisions to previous estimates from its employment surveys that incorporate more complete survey data and other changes. In January, Virginia was ranked 23rd in the nation for the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, along with Kentucky, Ohio, and South Carolina. 

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccines are being distributed and we work to safely reopen key sectors of our economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The Commonwealth has fared well economically in comparison to many other states, and we are fortunate to have a strong pipeline of economic development projects that are injecting much needed capital investment and new jobs into our communities.”

“With more Virginians returning to work, the good news is the economy can now rebuild at a faster rate,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our workforce system, including education and training providers, has been working hard to upskill or reskill anyone who has lost a job and is ready to start a new career path.”

In January, the labor force decreased by 1,452, essentially unchanged, to 4,253,627, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 8,920. The number of employed residents rose by 7,468 to 4,026,343. The private sector recorded an over-the-year loss of 160,800 jobs, while employment in the public sector lost 33,100 jobs.

Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, 10 out of 11 major industry divisions experienced employment decreases with one industry unchanged. The largest over-the-year job loss occurred in leisure and hospitality, down 81,600 jobs, or 19.4 percent. Construction was unchanged over-the-year at 207,500 jobs.

Over-the-year employment growth in Virginia had been positive for six consecutive years in February 2020 but dramatically changed course with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In January 2021, Virginia’s over-the-year job loss of 4.7 percent was less than the 6.3 percent decline nationwide.

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

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