Nearly 39 million have lost jobs in US since virus took hold

A man looks at signs of a closed store due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Thursday, May 21, 2020. More than 2.4 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the viral outbreak that triggered widespread business shutdowns two months ago and sent to economy into a deep recession. 

Virginia's unemployment rate surged into double digits in April as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses and schools to close and put hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

The state's jobless rate stood at 10.6% in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. The unemployment rate was up from only 2.9% a year ago in April 2019.

Locally, between the weeks ending March 14 and May 16, 7,599 people filed initial unemployment claims in Lynchburg, according to the most recent data from the Virginia Employment Commission. 

During that same time period, 16,985 people filed initial unemployment claims in the Lynchburg metropolitan statistical area, which consists of the city and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell.

In the week ending May 16, 4,499 people in Lynchburg filed continuing unemployment claims. In the same week, 9,576 people filed continued claims in the Lynchburg metro area.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the civilian workforce in Lynchburg is 36,749, while the civilian workforce in the Lynchburg metro area is 123,998.

Based on the figures of continued unemployment claims, 12.2% of Lynchburg’s workforce filed for benefits last week and 7.7% of the Lynchburg metro area workforce filed for benefits last week.

Government figures showed the state's jobless rate was 3.3% in March, but that data was collected before the worst of the coronavirus-related job losses hit the state.

Nearly 454,000 Virginians were counted as unemployed in April, out of a total workforce almost 4.3 million. That was up from 126,300 people who were counted as unemployed a year ago in April.

Before the pandemic, Virginia had experienced more than six years of positive employment growth.

Unemployment rates were higher in April in all 50 states and Washington D.C., the federal government report showed.

The national unemployment rate stood at 14.7%, up by 10.3 percentage points from the previous month and 11 percentage points higher than in April 2019.

The labor department said jobless rates in 43 states set record highs in April.

Nationwide, Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in April at 28.2%, followed by Michigan at 22.7%, and Hawaii at 22.3% percent.

Among Virginia's neighboring states, North Carolina's rate was 12.2%, Maryland's was 9.9%, and Tennessee's was 14.7%.

News & Advance reporter Richard Chumney contributed to this report.

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