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Data shows Southside has higher unemployment rates than other parts of Virginia

Southside Virginia has the highest unemployment rates in the commonwealth. That’s according to new numbers from the Virginia Employment Commission. Places like Petersburg, Emporia, Brunswick County and Danville have unemployment rates that are about twice as high as Northern Virginia.

Leslie Stratton at Virginia Commonwealth University notes places like Arlington have about four times as many people with college degrees as Petersburg. "So those major differences in education level by region within the state help explain the differences in the regional unemployment rates."

John Provo at Virginia Tech says the silver lining in the unemployment numbers is that they are so low. "It's good news for people looking for work, and it's challenging looking for businesses looking to hire. This goes for people on Main Street as well as people building factories," Provo says. "So I think the focus on labor force participation — getting people into the workforce and keeping people in the state — is critical."

Southside Virginia has been struggling for decades, and many people were hopeful about the possibility of thousands of new jobs in the region when Ford wanted to build a facility to make electric batteries. But the governor put an end to those discussions earlier this year when he became concerned that the company that would operate it had ties to China.

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.