RICHMOND – Botetourt County’s preliminary jobless rate dipped in August, becoming the fifth lowest in Virginia’s 95 counties and 38 independent cities, beating neighboring counties by half a percentage point or more, according to data from the state’s Employment Commission released last week.
Botetourt County unemployment rate was 4 percent in August, down 1.3 percent from July’s figures; in August, 679 filed an unemployment claim versus 899 the month before. In August 2019, the jobless rate was 2.7 percent or 482 people filing an unemployment claim, the data shows.
By comparison, Alleghany County saw a 5.8 percent jobless rate in August, down from 8.3 percent in July. Bedford County had a 4.7 percent unemployment rate in August and a 5.9 percent rate in July. Craig County’s jobless rate was 4.9 percent in August and 5.8 percent in July. Roanoke County witnessed a sleep decline between July and August, 6.3 percent versus 4.8 percent. North in Rockbridge County, 4.5 percent of its population filed an unemployment claim compared to 6.4 percent in July.
With a 4 percent jobless rate, Botetourt County ranked well above neighboring counties. The closes in ranking was Rockbridge County ranked No. 15. Bedford County was ranked 22nd, while Roanoke and Craig counties tied for No. 29. Alleghany County ranked 60th. Highland County ranked No. 1 with an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, while the City of Petersburg came in last with a dismal 15.8 percent rate.
Overall, Virginia had a 6.3 percent unemployment rate in August, down from 8 percent in July. However, in August 2019, the jobless claims was 2.9 percent.
Grant Holmes, executive director of the Botetourt County Chamber of Commerce, isn’t surprised by the low jobless rate. The business community, spearheaded by the Chamber, got out in front of COVID-19 before too much damage was done. The Chamber’s website helped small businesses keep the public informed of changes in hours and services, he said. Additionally, unlike some surrounding counties, Botetourt isn’t dependent on manufacturing. Instead, the county has what Grant called “essential business,” such as banks and health care.
In the current issue of the Chamber’s electronic newsletter, 20 companies have multiple job openings advertised. “We need people” for work, he said.
September’s jobless numbers will not be available until early next month.
Also last week, the VEC announced the number of initial claims filed from mid-March to Sept. 26, 2020, filing week total was 1,167,032, or 28.4 percent, of pre-pandemic payroll employment.