Virginia Hits Highest Labor Force Participation Rate in a Decade; Unemployment Decreases

(First published today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.)by Derrick A. Max

Work isn’t just about a paycheck. At its core, work is about freedom, accomplishment, respect, human dignity, and even companionship.  Work gives purpose and is essential to a thriving community, and thriving communities are essential to a thriving state. That is why it is not surprising to see Gov. Youngkin focus so intently on creating a job-friendly economy. In August of last year, the Governor announced and began implementing dramatic changes in the Commonwealth’s workforce development efforts. Friday’s employment numbers for May show that his efforts are paying off.

The May data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Virginia is one of only eleven states reporting lower unemployment last month and one of only seventeen states showing lower unemployment over the last twelve months. Equally as important, labor force participation rates went up — meaning people who had given up looking for work have re-entered the job market. This is the highest rate in almost a decade.

Finally, and most impressively, over the past twelve months job growth occurred in ten of eleven industry sectors and in all ten metropolitan areas in Virginia (known as Metropolitan Statistical Areas or MSAs). It is important to note that the Richmond MSA, which includes Petersburg, had the highest percentage gains in employment over the past year. It would seem the Governor’s “Partnership for Petersburg,” where he has focused his administration on forty-two initiatives and public-private partnerships in this struggling community south of Richmond, is starting to show results.

The only red flags in the latest numbers are the continued increases in state government jobs and in industries dependent on the government, such as education.

Also, the decline in mining and logging was fairly substantial.

While the Thomas Jefferson Institute doesn’t espouse the idea that governments or Governors “create” jobs, we do believe that lower taxes, reduced regulations, and safe communities create the environment for businesses to be created and to grow. This appears to be the Youngkin way.

With the budget still undecided, a $3 billion-plus budget surplus on the table, general revenue running well ahead of forecasts, and a likely revenue-filled June yet to come — we hope the Governor can use these job numbers to convince the legislature to continue to cut taxes and regulations and to get more low tax members elected.

Derrick Max becomes President and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy on July 1. He may be reached at

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16 responses to “Virginia Hits Highest Labor Force Participation Rate in a Decade; Unemployment Decreases”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive


    1. Nathan Avatar

      And trillions of dollars later, we find ourselves fighting the worst inflation in 40 years. Wages aren’t keeping up, and it is hurting the poorest and most vulnerable the most.

      Yah, thanks a lot!

      Much of which was not even spent on infrastructure.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      Amazon HQ2 is not matching the original hype. The economy is partly to blame

      Arlington, Virginia, beat more than 200 competitors for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters, Amazon HQ2, which finally opened its doors last week.

      The project is much smaller than originally anticipated, and Amazon has delayed a second phase, though the company is vowing to eventually meet its commitments to the region.

      Nationwide, companies are slowing down projects, citing recession fears, rising interest rates, and worker shortages

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        So? The unemployment graphs, doesn’t matter if you choose fed, state, or a mix of counties, has had a definite downward trend over decades with occasional transient upticks.

        Keyword transients!

        You’re in the weeds. Any State legislation may, or may not, effect the displacement of the value but not the trend.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          “Rising interest rates”. Why? In an effort to fight inflation. Why is there high inflation to fight? Excessive government spending which increases the deficit and national debt.

          The “Infrastructure” Law you reference (which when originally proposed was, at most, 30% infrastructure) is a contributor to overspending, increased deficits, higher national debt and more inflationary pressure.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Yeah, and in the world’s biggest economy, it’ll last a year, maybe two. Besides, the running at near 0% interest for years left the fed with no possibility of control.

            Again, you’re worried about transient rates and behavior. Life is measured in decades. If you’re lucky.

            Yep, spending borrowed money on infrastructure is painful, but tell me again how the Trump $3T trickle down worked any better than Magic Ronnie’s $3T trickle down.

          2. VaNavVet Avatar

            There was a pandemic and associated shutdown of the economy which then necessitated emergency funds to save small businesses and households.

          3. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams


            Yes there was, but perhaps you should track the $5 trillion in new bills you printed before you spend them, you know it might curb inflation.

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Hey, did ya catch the “said out loud”?

            “All of these financial institutions, they buy politicians,” he [Serge Varlay, Blackrock recruiter] said. “You can take this big f*** ton of money and buy people … It’s not who is the president, it’s who is controlling the wallet of the president. You could buy your candidates. First, there is the senators, these guys are f***ing cheap. Got 10 grand? You can buy a senator. I’ll give you 500k right now … It doesn’t matter who wins, they’re in my pocket.”

    3. VaNavVet Avatar

      Virginia’s numbers are against a backdrop of an improving economy for the country.

  2. VaNavVet Avatar

    The “Youngkin Way” should be to work across the aisle to get things done and to bring the Commonwealth together as opposed to a continuing focus on divisive issues.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      I agree. He should not behave exactly the same way the democrats did when they controlled the governorship and both houses in the GA.

      1. VaNavVet Avatar

        There was no incentive to work across the aisle when one party had complete control. Divided government is different! Based upon the primary results it looks like a couple of the moderate Democrats will not be back and thus will no longer side with the GOP. Thus Youngkin will have to change his approach or accept lame duck status.

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Instead of sounding like someone from the Governor’s press office, please tell us specifically what the Governor’s “dramatic” workforce development changes entailed (the link shows the Governor speaking in generalities) and how they influenced the current new positive employment numbers.

    By the way, a lot of the changes in workforce development were included in legislation in the 2023 General Assembly that will not become effective until July 1. It would be amazing that legislation that has not even become effective was having such a good effect in advance of its implementation.

    Furthermore, just because Petersburg is in the Richmond MSA does not mean that the positive numbers for the MSA are also applicable specifically to Petersburg.

    What is Petersburg’s unemployment rate and labor participation
    rate? What specific initiatives included in the “Partnership for Petersburg” has contributed to the city’s lower unemployment rate, if it is lower?

    Could it be that Virgina’s good employment numbers are reflective of what is happening on the national level?

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