May 13, 2024 - News

Richmond's true unemployment rate is around 19%

A bar chart showing the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest True Rate of Unemployment in 2023. The measure shows the share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage).
Note: Share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage); Data: Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Richmond area was among the major U.S. metros with a low rate of true unemployment last year, according to a study from the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity.

Why it matters: The True Rate of Unemployment measures the proportion of workers looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage, not just any wage — and who are unable to find one.

State of play: Richmond metro had a true unemployment rate of 19.2% in 2023, compared to its 3% official rate last year, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Richmond's true rate is significantly better than the Charlottesville (32%), Blacksburg (25.7%) and Roanoke (19.8%) metros.
  • Virginia Beach (18.6%) and the D.C. metro (17.9%) had us beat.

The big picture: Boom towns like Denver, Nashville and Dallas are seeing low levels of true unemployment — in stark contrast to areas such as El Paso and New Orleans with large numbers of low-wage jobs, according to the True Employment report.

  • Nationwide, the True Unemployment rate is 24.2%; it averaged 23% in 2023.

What they're saying: "Local communities investing in infrastructure, housing, and future-oriented industries consistently outperform those more reliant on low-wage jobs," says LISEP founder Gene Ludwig.

How it works: The think tank's proprietary system measures the proportion of workers looking for and unable to find a full-time job that pays more than $25,000 per year.

Between the lines: The True Unemployment rate tends to track — but also be much higher than — the BLS unemployment rate.

  • That's because LISEP counts as unemployed anybody earning less than $25,000 per year, a group BLS excludes.
  • LISEP, unlike BLS, also includes people who have stopped looking for work due to lack of jobs, demands of child care or other issues.

Worth noting: The living wage in Richmond is $25.38 an hour for two working adults with two children, the MIT living wage calculator shows.

The bottom line: There are plenty of good jobs in America — but they're not evenly distributed.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Richmond.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Richmond stories

Richmondpostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Richmond.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more