CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV News) — The president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is praising the state's recent unemployment data as a sign of an economy "roaring back" from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest unemployment data released by WorkForce West Virginia showed the state's total employment for April 2021 rose to 750,100, just 5,800 below April 2019, which was the best April since 2008, Chamber President Steve Roberts said.

"April 2020 was the first month that the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects showed up in employment data, so while April 2021 is fantastic compared to April 2020, it’s important to compare this month to April 2019," Roberts said. "2019 was the year that West Virginia was approaching record employment levels, so returning to 2019 levels of employment has been a key in our recovery. As it stands now, we have almost accomplished that.”

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.8% in April, according to WorkForce's April report released Tuesday.

The number of unemployed state residents decreased by 1,500 to 45,800. Total employment was up 1,700 over the month. The national unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.1% in April.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased 3,200 in April, with gains of 1,700 in the service-providing sector and 1,500 in the goods-producing sector.

Within the goods-producing sector, employment increased by 1,100 in mining and logging and 600 in manufacturing. Employment decreased by 200 in construction. Within the service-providing sector, employment gains included 1,400 in leisure and hospitality, 400 in other services, 300 in financial activities and 100 in professional and business services.

Employment declines included 400 in trade, transportation, and utilities and 100 in education and health services. Employment remained unchanged in both government and information.

Since April 2020, total nonfarm payroll employment has increased 67,600. Employment increases included 27,500 in leisure and hospitality, 11,700 in trade, transportation, and utilities, 7,800 in education and health services, 4,100 in professional and business services, 4,000 in construction, 3,600 in government, 3,200 in other services, 3,100 in mining and logging, 2,000 in manufacturing, 500 in financial activities and 100 in information.

West Virginia’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased four-tenths of a percentage point to 5.7% in April 2021.

During recent interview with WV News, Dr. John Deskins, director of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research in WVU’s College of Business and Economics, said the state's pandemic recovery process really began last spring after “stay at home” orders were lifted and most businesses reopened.

“Originally, during the real crash, we lost 94,000 jobs, but by the end of the summer, we had gained back about 57,000 of the jobs,” he said. “So the early bounce-back was better than I thought. I was kind of impressed with those early numbers.”

However, job growth slowed during the third quarter of 2020, Deskins said.

“It was rough — we actually just stayed flat during the third quarter,” he said. “So we had this strong recovery, but then kind of a return to flatness over the fall.”

Now West Virginia is starting to regain jobs, Deskins said.

“I’m pretty optimistic about how long it’s going to take us to fill in those remaining 30,000 jobs that we need to fill to get back to where we were in January of last year,” he said.

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