Unemployment claims fall in Greater Lynchburg region, but thousands have left the job market

Lynchburg & Central Virginia News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Fewer people filed unemployment claims in the Greater Lynchburg region between May 1 and May 9 than during any time in the last year.

The number of continued unemployment claims filed across the Central Virginia Local Workforce Development Area during the week of May 1 was 1,497. Last week’s number was substantially lower than the 9,659 claims filed one year ago during the week of May 9, 2020, when many businesses were facing heavy restrictions on their operations due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Photo Courtesy: Central Virginia Workforce Development Board)

However, the number of people in the region’s workforce has dropped sharply in the last year, according to the Central Virginia Workforce Development Board.

In February of 2020, the Virginia Employment Commission estimated the Lynchburg Metropolitan Statical Area’s (MSA) civilian labor force to be approximately 124,111. By March of 2020, that number had shrunk to 117,444. Almost 7,000 people have left the job market.

Some experts believe many people are staying home to take care of children or sick family members.

“Remember, kids are not back in school yet. Hopefully, by the fall, many school systems will be back on a schedule that looks something like it did before the pandemic,” said Tim Saunders with Virginia Career Works. “But we’re not there yet, so a lot of people are having to take time away from work to care for children who are not in school full time.”

Saunders says the belief that many people are staying out of the job market to draw unemployment is largely incorrect — the data does not support that belief. While the number of people filing weekly unemployment has been elevated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not large enough to blame for the difficulty employers are having in filling jobs.

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