Job growth improved in the District, Maryland and Virginia in June after coming to a standstill in May, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. In a year that so far has offered little reason for optimism about the local economy, the gains could be a sign that the Washington area is finally healing from the bruising caused by the federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
All three jurisdictions added jobs in almost every industry. Perhaps most critically, each added jobs in the professional-services sector, which includes the region’s large government contracting workforce. The District added 1,900 jobs in this category, while Virginia added 600 and Maryland gained 100 positions.
The report showed particular improvement in the District, where 4,200 jobs were added overall. The jobless rate there ticked down from 7.5 percent to 7.4 percent as the ranks of the unemployed decreased slightly. The unemployment rate for the District has fallen more than a full percentage point in the last year. The greatest job growth in Washington was in the professional services sector and in the education and health services sector, which added 1,800 positions.
Maryland added 7,700 positions, a gain which erased the job losses the state saw in May. Job growth was especially strong in the hospitality sector, which added 2,100 positions, and health services, which gained 1,500. However, Maryland’s unemployment rate increased from 5.6 to 5.8 percent, as the labor force dwindled and the number of unemployed people grew.
Virginia’s jobless rate rose from 5.1 percent to 5.3 percent for much the same reason: Fewer people were looking for work and nearly 5,000 additional workers were counted as unemployed. Still, the commonwealth added 4,100 jobs, including 2,200 positions in the construction industry and another 2,200 positions gained in education and health services.
Paul Villella, chief executive of Reston-based staffing firm HireStrategy, said he noticed a spike in job activity.
“I don’t want to make it sound like [the job market] fantastic, but it’s so much better that it’s noticeable,” Villella said.
Villella said he’s not only seeing increased hiring activity among his clients, he’s doing some hiring of his own. He has plans to add about 30 workers to his Reston office and 35 to 40 more in his Washington office.
The national jobless rate slipped to 6.1 percent in June as the economy added 288,000 jobs.
Mississippi and Rhode Island had the highest jobless rate in the country, at 7.9 percent. The nation’s lowest jobless rate, 2.7 percent, was in North Dakota, where a boom in demand for energy jobs has helped keep unemployment down. The unemployment rate decreased in 22 states in June. The rate rose in 14 states and remained unchanged in 14 states.