Unemployment dips below 5 percent in Page County for first time in 7 years

Page News and Courier

LURAY — Unemployment numbers released for Page County by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are the lowest they have been in nearly a decade. For April 2016, the most recent numbers available, Page County had a 4.8 percent unemployment rate. March's rate was 6.8 percent.

There are a number of factors for the decrease in unemployment — though seasonal, tourism-related jobs have been cited as the number-one cause.

"First and foremost, the downturn in unemployment is a result of the tourism season," said Stephanie Lillard, Page County Director of Community and Economic Development. "That is one of the leading economic industries in the area. This time of year, we consistently see growth in jobs."

Ginny Judd is a case worker with Valley Workforce, whose office is located at 334 N. Hawksbill Street. Judd noted that March is usually when they see an influx of people seeking help for resumes and job applications.

"There is currently a need for people in this area; we help low-income and laid-off workers," Judd said. "March is usually when people are hiring for the [tourism] season."

Statistically, in previous years, there is an unemployment decrease as the weather begins to warm up, then it rises as the weather gets colder and the seasonal jobs dry up. The average unemployment rate for December 2015 through February 2016 was 8 percent.

Lillard believes that while there will always be a seasonal change, that in the coming years it will not be as drastic. Through the work of the Community and Economic Development Office, there have been more than 20 jobs brought to the area by the recent addition of Tactical Walls in Shenandoah — and that number is expected to increase — and Stanley's Masonite will be adding a third shift in the coming months that will bring around 100 jobs to Page County. Masonite is currently hiring 30 full-time positions for their second shift.

"The economy here is on an upward tick," Lillard said. "We won't go back into the double digit unemployment numbers like we used to; I certainly doubt we'll see that. The growth plan for Tactical Walls and Masonite will prevent us from seeing double digits in the winter."

The unemployment numbers for this time of year have steadily decreased as tourism has become a more thriving business in Page County. The April 2010 unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, but that number has decreased by at least one percentage point every April since.

Unemployment rates are down throughout the state of Virginia as well. Through a press release, Governor Terry McAuliffe noted that it was a testament to the success of growing and diversifying the state's economy.

"Virginia's economic growth is creating new opportunity and a quality of life for families across the Commonwealth," McAuliffe said. "We have more work to do, but there is no question that Virginia is headed in the right direction economically."

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