Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell (R) and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) are taking credit for Virginia’s improving employment rate, heralding January unemployment numbers in a joint statement.

Unemployment in Virginia dipped to 6.5 percent in January, the lowest rate since March 2009. That’s down from the seasonally adjusted rate of 6.7 percent in December. The Virginia Employment Commission says unemployment has been on a downward trend in Virginia since hitting a high of 7.3 percent in March 2010.

More than 77,000 Virginians now receive unemployment benefits, up from about 60,000 in December but down from more than 100,000 a year ago.

“Today’s news that the unemployment rate has fallen to a near-two year low demonstrates that this bipartisan effort is paying off,” Mc­Don­nell and Bolling said in the statement.. “We’re committed to keeping taxes low, making government more efficient, ensuring litigation and regulation are kept at a minimum, and freeing our private sector job-creators to expand, create, innovate and grow. That is how new jobs get created in the Commonwealth.”

Against the backdrop of a national debate over the proper role of unions, the Republicans specifically praised Virginia’s “right-to-work” laws, which make it illegal for employers to require workers to join unions.