Halifax County’s jobless rate fell in December as employers added 158 jobs, bringing unemployment down to 3.6 percent.

The November unemployment rate in the county was 4.0 percent.

As 2022 came to a close, Halifax County finished the year with positive job growth in eight out of 12 months. Starting out the year in January, there were 14,643 people employed in Halifax County. By December, that figure had risen to 15,553 people holding a job — a gain of 910 workers, according to the Virginia Employment Commission, which released its monthly local employment survey on Wednesday.

The county’s active labor force also grew significantly in 2022 — beginning with 15,310 people in the January labor pool and ending with 16,127 in December, a jump of 817. The active labor force consists of people who either have jobs or are actively seeking work. 

Halifax started out the year with a 4.4 percent unemployment rate. The county then dropped below the four percent threshold in every month but August and November, when local unemployment ticked back up to 4.0 percent. The lowest monthly mark was 3.2 percent in September.

By sheer numbers, the end-of-year job total in Halifax County is higher than it has been in more than two decades. The last time the county exceeded the current number of jobs was in 2000 — when 15,705 people were at work in December, compared to 15,553 this year.

Year-over-year, Halifax has gained 976 jobs since December 2021.

The county still has a way to go before it recovers all the jobs that have been lost over three decades of offshoring, automation, a shrinking farm economy and other trends that have shrunk the local economy. The high-water mark for employment growth in Halifax County came in 1993, when 17,511 workers were on local payrolls and the active labor force consisted of nearly 20,000 people — 21 percent higher than the number today.

Other data collected by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest the movement away from the manufacturing-based economy of the 1990s is ongoing. The fastest growing job sectors in Virginia this year were leisure and hospitality and education and health services, each of which rose by around 6 percent.

By comparison, manufacturing grew 2.2 percent, and trade, transportation and utilities barely nudged upward at 1.3 percent. Construction in Virginia cooled off after a torrid run the year before, growing at a 2.9 percent clip in 2022.

Elsewhere in Southside Virginia, jobless rates were as follows in December:

» Unemployment in Mecklenburg fell to 3.2 percent, from 3.5 percent in November, as the county added 299 jobs.

» In Pittsylvania County, unemployment was 2.5 percent, compared to 2.8 percent in November, with 413 more jobs.

» In the City of Danville, unemployment slid from 5.0 percent in November to 4.5 percent in December, with 311 jobs added.

» In Charlotte County, the rate declined from 3 percent in November to 2.5 percent in December, and the county added 109 jobs.

Virginia’s unemployment rate in December was 2.6 percent, and the U.S. figure was 3.3 percent.

From News and Record