by Tyler Arnold
Over the past five months, Virginia’s year-over-year employment growth has ranked well below the national average, according to a report published by economist A. Fletcher Mangum.
Mangum, who is the CEO of Mangum Economics and serves on Virginia’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists, found Virginia’s employment growth fell outside of the top half in April through August of this year.
In April, the commonwealth ranked 41st in year-over-year employment growth, in May it ranked 32nd, in June 30th, in July 39th and in August 47th. Virginia underperformed the nation in 12 of the 15 major industry categories for unemployment growth and outpaced the nation in only three categories. If the state had kept pace with the national average in August, it would have had 76,000 more jobs.
Although employment growth trails the nation, the state has consistently had lower unemployment rates than the rest of the country. The state was not hit has hard as most other states during the government lockdowns during COVID-19, but that was primarily caused by its reliance on federal employment and contracting jobs, which were able to survive the pandemic.
Stephen Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at the free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute told The Center Square slow unemployment growth has been primarily caused by policy changes in recent years, which have been unfriendly to businesses.
“Virginia’s economy remains highly dependent on defense and federal contracting, a blessing during the pandemic but not surging now,” Haner said. “That is part of it. But in other areas, taxes, regulation, labor costs, litigation risk and energy prices, Virginia has taken a rapid turn in the wrong direction. There is less daylight between us and California or New York.”
Questions about the status of Virginia’s economy have been a hot topic in the state’s governor’s race, which will be decided Nov. 2.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate and former governor, is running on his record. He has said he will invest in the economy and create jobs, but also supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and ending the state’s right-to-work protections, which have been opposed by many members of the business community. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate and former businessman, has promised not to raise taxes, promised to protect right-to-work protections and has said he would make the economy more friendly to businesses.
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