RICHMOND, JAN. 5 -- Virginia's unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percent in November to 3.6 percent, the state's lowest jobless rate in 14 years and a full 2 percent lower than the national average, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The last time Virginia's unemployment rate was lower was in December 1973, when it stood at 3.5 percent.

Analysts with the commission called November's economic activity unusually strong and said December's unemployment rate should be about the same as November's.

Even though outside jobs such as construction will taper off because of the weather, "retailing, food services and hotels will be at peak holiday employment levels," the VEC's William Mezger said today.

"Some of the metropolitan areas may see even lower jobless figures in December because of their concentrations of retailing activities," Mezger said.

November's jobless rate dropped in every city surveyed.

The lowest unemployment rate in Virginia was in Manassas Park, where the jobless rate was 1.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Buchanan County had the highest rate, 11.8 percent.

In Northern Virginia, the jobless rate fell to 1.8 percent, from 2.1 percent.

Lynchburg's unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 from 4.8 percent, and in Tidewater it dipped to 4.0 from 4.3. Richmond's rate fell to 3.4 from 3.8 and Roanoke's dropped to 3.6 from 3.9 percent.

The commission reported that 40,000 Virginia residents were drawing unemployment benefits in November, compared with 44,000 drawing benefits in November 1986, when the jobless rate was 4.7 percent.

Nonfarm employment increased by 15,000 to record high of 2.6 million people.

The VEC also said that the average hourly wage is now $9.16, 23 cents above the same month the previous year.