RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's unemployment rate shot up into the double digits in April due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it, the Virginia Employment Commission said Friday.
The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 10.6% in April from 3.3% the month before, according to the commission. Virginia’s rate was lower than the national rate of 14.7% during a month in which the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said all 50 states and the District of Columbia saw increases.
In April, all 10 metropolitan areas of Virginia for which data is produced experienced over-the-month job losses, according to VEC, and employment fell in all major industry sectors. Losses were particularly heavy in the leisure and hospitality industries, which saw a decline of 161,400 jobs.
In all, private sector employment decreased by 351,900 jobs while public sector payrolls decreased by 31,500 jobs, the VEC said.
Gov. Ralph Northam said at a news conference Friday that the dramatic increase had been expected, noting the more than 700,000 Virginians who have filed for unemployment benefits since widespread business closures went into effect in mid-March.
Northam also acknowledged reports of Virginians having trouble getting their unemployment benefits and said the state was opening a new call center with 315 additional employees to assist.
The unemployment data was released as much of the state was a week into a gradual reopening process. Certain businesses began reopening or expanding their capacity last Friday under modified restrictions set in place by the governor.
Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County on the Eastern Shore were all granted two-week delays after elected leaders there expressed concern it was too early to reopen.
Northam said Friday that he would have more to share next week about additional steps to reopen.
The Virginia Department of Health on Friday reported nearly 35,000 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and over 1,100 deaths. Both totals are likely an undercount due to a lack of widespread testing, and the likelihood that many people without symptoms could be spreading the highly contagious virus.
Millions around the world have been infected.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death. The majority of people recover.