RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Virginia officials say more people are looking for work, which has pushed the unemployment rate up slightly to three percent.

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced on Tuesday that the number of employed Virginians rose by nearly 4,500 in December.

According to a release, nearly 90,000 more Virginians have been able to find work since January 2022, with more people returning to the workforce and searching for a job.

The state unemployment average is still below the national rate, which currently sits at 3.5 percent.

While the number of unemployed residents did go up by more than 5,100 in December, the overall number is down by more than 10,400 since January 2022.

"Throughout the first year of our administration, job growth in Virginia was overwhelmingly led by the private sector, providing 86 percent of year-over-year job growth, with our valuable defense and public sectors continuing their strong contributions as well,” said Youngkin. “This encouraging report showed thousands of Virginians coming off the sidelines and getting back into the workforce. We remain laser-focused on improving Virginia’s competitive presence among states competing for jobs and businesses. As companies in Virginia continue to grow payrolls and drive our economy, we must keep moving forward to lower the cost of living and the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth.” 

The release says job growth has averaged 9,000 a month over the past year, which is more than twice the 2021 average and 28 percent higher than the pre-pandemic average from 2019.

Across Virginia, the labor force participation rate, which measures the proportion of the civilian population that is 16 years old or older and is employed or actively looking for work, increased to 63.7 percent in December.

“The Commonwealth’s unemployment rate remained in a narrow range of 2.6 percent and 3.0 percent for much of 2022," said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “These low levels indicate a strong labor market, and we are encouraged by the number of people entered the workforce in December.” 

The Virginia Current Employment Statistics Survey, or CES, uses payroll records from establishment employers and aims to provide a count of jobs under which an employer pays unemployment insurance.

During the month of December, 10 of Virginia’s 11 major industry divisions reported employment recovery, with the largest gains comes from education and health services.

Government employment reported the second-highest gains, and leisure and hospitality came in at third.

The finance industry was the only one to report losses.

To view the full report, click here.