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DULLES, VA-AOL is joining the ranks of companies that are slashing their employee base. The company will be cutting some 10% of its work force–or 700 people. It will also be consolidating its operations here, in California and in New York, where it relocated its headquarters last year. AOL plans to lease portions of its office space in Dulles, and consolidate its footprint in Mountain View, CA, from two buildings to one. It is unclear how many of the 700 employees will be let go from the local office.

AOL is illustrative of a growing–and for the most part unusual trend–in the DC area: rising unemployment. Northern Virginia specifically has traditionally had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but recent figures show that is changing.

The Virginia Employment Commission just reported that unemployment in Northern Virginia hit 3.4% in November, compared to 2.3% a year earlier. Statewide unemployment in Virginia rose to 4.6% in November, up from 3% a year earlier.

As these numbers rise, so will the inevitable office vacancies. Standard office space requirements are about 180 to 250 square feet per person.

Still, though, it is important to remember that Northern Virginia is still experiencing positive job growth, Spencer Stouffer, managing director at Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers, tells GlobeSt.com. “I haven’t seen a direct affect in the commercial real estate market in Northern Virginia related to layoffs yet. There have been no meaningful bankruptcies or a lot of shadow supply coming to market.” The market slowdown, rather, is more an issue of confidence. “There are still real [leasing] deals out there looking to be done.”

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