Unemployment rate improves

Published 10:04 pm Friday, January 11, 2013

Suffolk’s unemployment rate improved toward the end of 2012, because retailers and distribution facilities hired more workers leading in to the holiday period, city Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said.

According to early U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, unemployment in Suffolk in November was at 6.1 percent, down from an official rate of 6.4 percent in October.

“I think what we’re seeing with this is some of the employers … anticipated holiday sales coming in,” Hughes said.

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“It wasn’t just retailers hiring, but also some of the distribution facilities. They were able to bring on permanent, as well as temporary, workers to make sure stores were prepared for the holiday season.”

Suffolk’s unemployment rate has declined steadily since spiking at 8.1 percent in August 2010.

The preliminary November rate of 6.1 percent is the lowest for Suffolk since December 2008’s 5.2 percent, after which it jumped to 6.2 percent in January 2009.

But the news came in the same week as an announcement that Cobham Composite Products off Harbour View Boulevard will shut down this summer, taking away about 50 local full-time jobs.

The company will transition manufacturing for military and commercial airplanes, missiles and munitions to a larger site in San Diego, Calif., after “revenue expectations … did not materialize,” a company spokesman said.

Hughes said individual announcements of business openings or closures usually have little effect on the overall jobs figures. But the general trend in Suffolk, he said, has been in the right direction.

“Having an unemployment rate over 6 percent is definitely too high,” he added. “However, we are seeing that slow decline in unemployment.”

Virginia’s overall unemployment rate for November fell to 5.6 percent, which ties with March, April and May of 2012 for the commonwealth’s lowest jobless rate since December 2008.

Gov. Bob McDonnell credited balanced budgets and budget surpluses, investments and improvements in transportation and education, and Republicans and Democrats working together.

“Still, even with this positive news today, there remain far too many Virginians without work,” McDonnell stated in a news release.

“That is a tragedy and it is unacceptable. Our work will not be done until there is good work available for all Virginians, in every city and county in the commonwealth.”