Correction: CORRECTION: An earlier Web version of this story contained incorrect figures for Virginia. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in November from 6.4 percent the month before.
Steady private sector growth drove down the unemployment rates in the District, Maryland and Virginia for the second consecutive month in November, according to a U.S. Labor Department report released Tuesday.
The data showed that the District’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.6 from 11 percent the month before, fueled mainly by gains in the professional and business services sector and in education and health.
Maryland’s jobless level fell to 6.9 percent from 7.2 percent, while Virginia’s dropped to 6.2 percent from 6.4 percent.
The private sector growth is largely offsetting government job losses, which accelerated this year amid federal budget stalemates and payroll cuts by states and local governments trying to cope with revenue shortfalls.
Though the report showed weaknesses in the leisure and hospitality sector in Virginia and professional and business services in Maryland, analysts said there were plenty of reasons to be encouraged. Unlike the nation’s unemployment rate, which fell in part because people stopped looking for work and were not counted as part of the labor force, the Washington region hired more people.
“The unemployment rates declined despite the fact that more people were looking for work,” said Anirban Basu, chairman and chief executive of Sage Policy Group, a Baltimore economic and policy consulting firm. “That’s precisely what we want to see. The data suggest that the regional economy is coming back to life after a very soft summer.”
D.C. gained a net of 2,400 jobs in November, according to the data. Government was the only sector to contract, shedding a net of 100 jobs.
“That’s a real positive sign,” said James H. Moore Jr., deputy director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services’ office of policy, performance and economics.
“People are encouraged that their job prospects are better [now] than they were during the past few months,” he added.
Professional and business services were up 1,100 jobs; education and health, up 900; retail, up 400; financial activities, up 200. Even construction gained 100 jobs.
The drop in the city’s unemployment rate “is pretty significant,” said James Bohnaker, an associate economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The question is whether this is temporary or whether the private sector is going to be able to sustain these broad gains over the next year.”
Maryland added a net of 2,000 jobs. Sectors that expanded include construction, up 1,100 jobs; leisure and hospitality, up 1,100; retail, up 900; education and health, up 700; and financial activities, up 600.
Sectors that lost include government, down 2,300 jobs; professional and business services, down 1,500; and manufacturing, down 1,500.
“Overall, we are trending in the right direction,” Alexander M. Sanchez, secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said Tuesday. “This is certainly a good month, but we do not expect it to be a steady trend line. It will probably be a difficult haul to get to where we want to be.”
Virginia’s data showed positive and negative trends, pointing out contrasts between the household survey, which determines the unemployment rate, and the employer survey, which calculates job gains and losses.
The household survey showed that employment grew by 15,941 jobs while the unemployment rolls shrank by 8,331.
But the employer survey showed some heavy losses: leisure and hospitality, down 4,400; manufacturing, down 2,500; and professional and business services, down 1,900.
The state’s only gainers were retail, up 3,800; and government, up 1,900.
Virginia’s economy “is fragile, it is weak, we’re just seeing moderate growth,” said Ann D. Lang, senior economist at the Virginia Employment Commission. “Is the job loss a “signal of something happening? One month is too hard to judge.”
The District’s 10.6 percent jobless rate is still well above the national unemployment rate, which fell from 9 percent to 8.6 percent in November, while Maryland and Virginia are below it.
Unemployment levels dropped in 43 states and the District, rose in three states and remained steady in four.
Nevada had the highest jobless rate, 13 percent. North Dakota had the lowest, 3.4 percent.