RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's jobless rate rose for the second time in as many months after remaining steady at the lowest rate in three years.

The Virginia Employment Commission said Friday Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 5.9 percent in July. The rate is still 0.5 percentage points lower than a year ago and follows a similar pattern to last year when the jobless rate increased during the summer months.

Virginia's jobless rate overall has been trending down since January 2010, when joblessness peaked at 7.3 percent.

"It'll be interesting to see in the next several months how that (pattern) plays out," said Ann Lang, a senior economist with the state agency.

Lang said the rate inched up in July as the number of unemployed rose and the labor force — the number of people working or actively looking for a job — contracted.

The state agency said 52,216 Virginians were receiving regular unemployment benefits in July. That's down from 55,197 in June and down from 55,195 in July 2011.

The rate is still below the national average, which rose slightly to 8.3 percent.

The Labor Department said unemployment rates rose in 44 states last month, the most states to show a monthly increase in more than three years and a reflection of weak hiring nationwide. Rates fell in 2 states and Washington, and were unchanged in four.

Nationwide, hiring improved in July after three months of tepid hiring. Monthly job gains have averaged 150,000 this year. That's barely enough to accommodate population growth. As a result, the unemployment rate is the same as when the year began.

In Virginia, nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 24,500 jobs in July after five consecutive months of increases. Employment typically falls in July with the summer release of non-teaching service workers from public school systems across the state.

Increases were seen in leisure and hospitality, trade and transportation, professional and business services, finance, and the construction industry. Losses were seen in total government, private education and health services, manufacturing, the information sector and miscellaneous services. Employment in the mining industry was unchanged.


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