Virginia’s unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percentage points in November, which brings it to 3.4%, according to numbers recently released by the Virginia Employment Commission.

Over the last year and a half, unemployment has been steadily decreasing in the state, dropping at least 0.1 percentage points every month in the last year and a half. The lower unemployment trend coincides with the government rescinding COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, which had initially caused a massive spike in unemployment.

Virginia’s unemployment rate is eight-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national average, which is 4.2%. It is also 2.4% lower than it was last November.

“The Commonwealth’s unemployment rate has decreased once again, for the eighteenth month in a row and to its lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “Virginia continues to remain a place where both businesses and workers can thrive—and these numbers prove that.”

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 13,600 jobs in the month and the labor force increased by 2,706. The total number of unemployed Virginians went down by 8,627 and the number of employed residents increased by 11,333.

“The continued increase in payroll employment and decrease in the unemployment rate are exciting indications of a strong job market in the Commonwealth,” Secretary of Labor Megan Healy said in a statement. “We’re proud of the resiliency of Virginia’s businesses and workers alike, and we will continue to work with our workforce development partners to provide support and resources for Virginians looking to enter the workforce.”

Employment increased in eight major industry sectors, decreased in one and remained the same in one.

Leisure and hospitality services increased by 3,800 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities went up by 3,600 jobs and education and health services increased by 3,300 jobs. Professional and business services also saw a 1,100-job increase, manufacturing saw a 1,000-job increase, construction saw a 600-job increase and information and mining both saw increases in 100 jobs each.

Miscellaneous services went down by 300 jobs. There was no change in the number of government jobs.

“Since this time last year, the unemployment rate is down significantly, and nonfarm payroll has increased by more than 52,000 jobs,” Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball said in a statement. “These are just two of many positive signs for Virginia’s economy, which is on track to be even stronger than it was before the pandemic.”

Despite the improvements in unemployment, many small business groups are reporting difficulty in finding qualified workers, which has caused a labor shortage in some industries. There has also been increasingly high inflation, which has caused prices to increase nationwide. The combination of a labor shortage, fewer resources and higher costs have caused businesses to shorten hours of operation and have shortages in supplies.