FILE - Now Hiring sign, unemployment, jobs

(The Center Square) – Virginia’s unemployment recovery from last week was the eighth worst in the county, which aligns with its poor position since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the financial website WalletHub.

When compared to every other state and the District of Columbia, Virginia’s unemployment recovery was 44th in the last recorded week. The commonwealth saw a rate 228.7% higher than it was in the same week in 2019. The commonwealth also ranked 40th in its unemployment recovery since the start of the pandemic. It saw about a 76.7% reduction in unemployment since the pandemic began.

Virginia saw about a 167.2% increase in its weekly unemployment claims when compared to the start of 2020. It saw a 68.7% reduction when compared to the same week in 2020.

With access to vaccines increasing, Gov. Ralph Northam eased most of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. However, some restrictions established by the Department of Labor and Industry’s Health Codes Board still remain in effect. These restrictions will be reevaluated within two weeks of the state of emergency ending at the end of the month.

Although businesses have been much freer to operate, many have reported difficulty in finding workers. Virginia recently created a back-to-work bonus intended to get people off unemployment benefits and back into the workforce. This will provide small businesses with up to $500 in matching bonuses for workers who earn at least $15 per hour.

However, Virginia also provides an additional $300 every month in unemployment benefits, which is provided with federal COVID-19 relief funds. Some members of the business community and free-market think tanks have urged the state to end the additional pandemic unemployment because it could incentivize people to stay at home, rather than work.

“We seem to be stabilized at a fairly high unemployment level,” Stephen Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at the free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute, told The Center Square.

“The most effective step would be to terminate the additional, supplemental federal UI benefit of $300 per week,” Haner said. When this many jobs are empty and employers are basically begging for workforce, that has become an impediment to employment. But this the Governor refuses to do. Another key step would be to make sure parents know that all schools will be in person, five days per week come fall so they can plan a real work schedule. The limited hiring bonus the Governor announced was basically just for show, with too many strings attached to be effective.”

The states with the best unemployment recovery were South Carolina, Arizona, Kansas and Vermont. The states with the worst unemployment recovery were Rhode Island, Delaware, the District of Columbia and Kentucky.

According to the report, Republican states fared slightly better than Democratic states. Red states score about 24th on average and blue states scored nearly 28th on average. The states are designated red or blue depending on how they voted in the 2020 presidential election.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.