Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces Virginia Labor Force Participation Nears Pre-Pandemic Level

RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced Virginia’s labor force participation rate has increased to 65.6% in February, the highest rate since February 2020’s pre-pandemic rate of 65.7%. According to BLS Local Area Unemployment Statistics (“LAUS”, or “the household survey”), the labor force in Virginia increased by 17,618 to 4,505,193.  

“Our goal since day one has been to increase opportunities for Virginians, sidelined during the pandemic, to return to the workforce—and we’re closer than ever to pre-pandemic labor participation,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “February’s employment figures demonstrate Virginia continues to be headed in the right direction. Despite ongoing economic uncertainty in the United States and around the world, our focus in Virginia remains on creating an environment for investment and job growth so that we can truly be the best place to live, work and raise your family.” 

With the increase of Virginians moving back into the workforce, Virginia’s unemployment rate of 3.2 percent was unchanged from January and remained below the national rate, which edged upward to 3.6 percent in February.  

According to LAUS, the number of employed residents increased by 16,905 to 4,359,563 in February. Throughout the month, the number of unemployed residents increased by 713 to 145,630. 

“Virginia’s job market has remained strong to start the year. We continue to see the private sector drive the economic growth in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater. “As we accelerate our workforce development efforts, we are focused on executing programs in the fastest-growing sectors that will help more Virginians participate in a growing economy.”  

“We are nearly three years beyond the onset of the Covid pandemic and our economy continues to recover,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “The labor force participation rate rose to 65.6% in February, which was the highest rate since the beginning of the pandemic. High-quality jobs in in-demand sectors remain throughout the Commonwealth, and we are encouraged that Virginians are filling those jobs and returning to the workforce.” 

BLS publishes an additional employment figure from its Current Employment Statistics Survey (“CES” or “establishment survey”). Virginia CES employment rose by 3,200 jobs in February to 4,131,200 and has increased by nearly 119,000 since January 2022. 

The CES survey uses payroll records of establishment employers and is designed to provide a count of jobs under which the employer pays unemployment insurance. The LAUS survey is based on household interviews conducted each month for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides comprehensive data on the labor force, including those who are employed and unemployed. Establishment survey data reflects changes for updated seasonal adjustment factors, and industry classification conversions (NAICS), as part of the annual benchmarking process. 

The household survey only distinguishes between whether a person is employed or unemployed, whereas CES counts each employee that is on an employer’s payroll. CES excludes business owners, self-employed persons, unpaid volunteers and private household workers, and those on unpaid leave or not working because of a labor dispute. 

On a seasonally adjusted basis, employment rose in four of eleven major industry sectors for the month and declined in seven. The largest job gain during February occurred in government, with an increase of 6,100 jobs to 725,700. The second largest increase occurred in education and health services (+2,200 jobs) to 572,600. Trade, transportation, and utilities was third, with a gain of 1,100 jobs, rising to 669,000. The largest job loss during February occurred in professional and business services (-2,600 jobs) to 811,700. The second largest decrease occurred in leisure and hospitality, with a decrease of 1,800 jobs to 406,100. The third largest loss occurred in construction with a decrease of 1,200 jobs to 214,600. 

Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, ten of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment increases while one industry experienced a loss. The largest absolute over-the-year job gain occurred in education and health services, up 26,100 jobs (+4.8%). The second largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 22,900 jobs (+6.0%). The third largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 14,000 jobs (+1.8%). Finance experienced the only job loss (-400 jobs). For more details, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at