Unemployment in the region is at a six-year high, Brian McNeill writes in the Progress, but it’s still not bad. We’re at 4.1%, compared to 4.6% statewide and 6.1% nationally. That’s a 55% increase over August of last year. (And it was just January of last year that the city had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.) It’s well worth noting that unemployment numbers are based on the number of people still seeking employment; anybody who gives up to wait for the job market to improve is dropped from the rolls. Broadly speaking, a rate of 5% unemployment is considered normal and healthy, since there is always going to be a certain number of people between jobs.
We had a nasty drop off of employment, both in raw unemployment numbers but also in underemployment, back when Ix, Comdial, and Technicolor folded, laid off their local workforce, and moved operations to Mexico, respectively. That put a lot of career blue collar workers out of work or left them delivering pizza (making them technically employed). That 1998-2002 period was followed by the unsurprising discovery that area income was dropping.
If the global economic woes are a hurricane, and Charlottesville is a beach town, the good news is that we’ve got the coastal wetlands of the university to buffet the waves. (Admit it—that metaphor was awesome.) Though UVa is making it tough to hire new employees now, and a hiring freeze is rumored, there’s just no reason to expect layoffs now, as there virtually never has been there.