As fourth-years and graduate students around the University scramble to secure jobs, a large number of Charlottesville residents are doing the same.
As of September, Charlottesville’s unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, as compared to Virginia’s 5.2 percent and the national 5.9 percent. Charlottesville has just more than 1,000 unemployed citizens, as compared to more than 20,000 working. Job levels are higher in Charlottesville than they were before the 2008 recession.
“The unemployment rate peaked during the recession, but remained considerably low compared to localities of similar size and demographics throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Hollie Lee, the chief of workforce development strategies in the local Office of Economic Development. Lee said unemployment rates are now very stable.
According to the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the greater-Charlottesville area has expanded to hold 114,911 total jobs, a 12.7 percent increase from 2003. The private sector has grown at a significantly faster rate than the public, adding 9,472 jobs, as compared to the public sector’s 3,533 jobs.
The top employers in the metropolitan area are the University Medical Center, Albemarle County, Martha Jefferson Hospital, the City of Charlottesville and State Farm.
The growth in the private sector can be majorly attributed to the growth in the leisure and hospitality industries within Charlottesville. The industries have grown 29.8 percent, compared to professional and business services, which have grown 35.5 percent; natural resources and mining, 30.9 percent; and educational and health service, 36.9 percent.
The University is the largest source of Charlottesville public job growth. In the past 10 years, the University has added a net 7,923 jobs. The Charlottesville government, on the other hand, added 1,189. Overall, the University has contributed to a 25.6 percent increase in total jobs, while Charlottesville has contributed to a 3.4 percent increase.
But budget cuts did bring the University's net employment down 2.5 percent from 2012 to 2013. Though the Medical Center is expanding employment, other areas in the University, such as the Academic Division, have felt the impact of fiscal cuts.
Many Charlottesville institutions work to help the unemployed and combat high unemployment rates. A report presented to City Council by the Internal Strategic Action Team on Workforce Development in 2013 highlighted some of the barriers to finding paid work in the city.
“The report focuses on helping City residents gain self-sufficiency through employment by providing access to training and addressing residents’ barriers to employment,” Lee said.
The report highlighted barriers such as limited job creation, literacy, workplace readiness, transportation, child care, criminal history and housing.
The Downtown Job Center is Charlottesville’s main resource for employment services. The center, open on weekdays, aids residents in job searches and resume writing, as well as in employer recruitment strategies.
The center is a program of Charlottesville’s Office of Economic Development, which, according to its website, serves as a “catalyst for public and private initiatives that create employment opportunities and a vibrant and sustainable economy.”
The OED aims to enhance Charlottesville’s economy and quality of life. It acts as a facilitator between the business community and city, as well as state agencies, private and public sectors and academia.
Several non-profits in the area are working to tackle the problem as well. The Greater Charlottesville Area Development Corporation, a local 501(c) organization, works with the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce to reduce unemployment in the area.
Ridge Schuyler heads the Charlottesville Works Initiative, part of the corporation, which identifies attainable jobs for the unemployed in the community. A triage tool developed through the University's Education School allows the organization to match potential employees with a suitable job.
“[The matching tool] uses structured conversation to try and figure out for people where they are and what they need to be a quality employee,” Schuyler said.
Job-seekers are then connected with the resources needed to make employment possible, including childcare providers, transportation and skills training, and are presented to potential employers after they have completed the job-assigning process.
CWI works closely with various employers who give them information about what jobs they have available and what skills they require. The corporation also reaches out to the unemployed through peer networks which distribute information about potential job opportunities.