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Labor force participation is back up in Virginia, but uneven across the state

Virginia's labor force participation rate is now back up to pre-pandemic levels.

When the pandemic struck, many people in Virginia responded by simply dropping out of the labor force. They didn’t have a job, and they weren't looking for a job. Now Virginia is finally seeing a labor force participation rate that’s slightly higher than it was before the pandemic.

Terry Clower at George Mason University's Schar School says the trend is driven by rising wages and the conclusion of some of the stimulus funding.

"While it's not completely recovered, we are seeing some recovery in some of the important services like childcare and eldercare service that may be now allowing some folks to go back and look for jobs and actually take jobs who simply couldn't because of other responsibilities over the last three years," explains Clower.

John Provo at Virginia Tech points out that labor force participation looks different in different parts of the Commonwealth.

"Some of the more rural areas are still struggling to get back up to pre-pandemic levels," Provo says. "Some of the smaller metros with good job growth have actually been running actually at a higher rate for a while. So, I think that's probably the interesting question now that as a state we're back to pre-pandemic levels."

Governor Glenn Youngkin credits what he says are common sense policies to make Virginia more competitive and bring more people into the labor force.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.