FILE - Virginia Beach boardwalk

Virginia Beach boardwalk

The Virginia unemployment rate remained at 2.9 percent in April, which is 0.7 percent better than the national average.

The national average decreased from 3.8 percent to 3.6 percent in the month, which is the lowest national rate in nearly half of a century.

The commonwealth's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is tied for fifth lowest in the nation and it is the lowest rate among the Southeast states. The 2.9 percent rate is slightly lower than last year's rate in April, which was 3.1 percent.

“The continued growth of Virginia’s labor force underscores the substantial progress we have made in diversifying our economy and training more and more Virginians with in-demand skills,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release.

“The recent major economic development announcements in Augusta and Rockingham counties highlight our efforts to attract 21st century jobs," he said, "and new capital investment to all corners of the Commonwealth – and my administration will remain focused on creating opportunities so every Virginia family can thrive, no matter who they are or where they live.”

Virginia's labor force rose by 0.1 percent, or 2,637 jobs, which set a record high of 4,362,921 people in the workforce. Household employment increase by 2,009, which also set a record of 4,235,646.

The non-farm payroll employment rose by 0.2 percent, or 8,100 jobs. Manufacturing and Finance were the two best performing industries percentage-wise. Manufacturing gained 2,100 jobs, which was a 0.9 percent increase. Finance gained 2,600 jobs, which is a 1.3 percent increase. Professional and business services gained 3,700 jobs, a 0.5 percent increase. 

Government jobs increase by 200, which was less than one-tenth of a percentage increase.

The number of unemployed people rose by 628.

Stephen Haner, a senior fellow at the Virginia-based Thomas Jefferson Institute, told The Center Square in an email that there are several factors that lead to the low unemployment rate.

"Virginia does many things well, and over the years has had good success with business recruitment," Haner said. "The Right to Work law is one of many policies that make Virginia a good place to start or expand a business. In general, Virginia’s state and local tax burden is not considered high. It’s fair to add that while Virginia is considered too dependent on defense contracting work, at the present time that’s a strong positive for our economy."

Chris Braunlich, the institute's president, said that these economic gains could be at risk if the next General Assembly repeals the state's right-to-work law or fails to create adequate state tax reform.

The over-the-year job growth also increased for Virginia in April, which was the 61st consecutive month. It grew by 1.1 percent, but this fell below the national average of 1.8 percent.

Staff Writer

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio 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.