Hampton Roads Planning District CommissionHRPDCVA

Economics

Hampton Roads Economic Monthly

2020 Census Results are In: What’s The Count?

by Greg Grootendorst, Chief Economist and Katherine Rainone, Regional Economist

October 2021

The 2020 Census – a headcount of every person living in the United States as of April 1, 2020 – is one of the most important tools analysts, policymakers, businesses, non-profits and other decision makers have for understanding the nation’s demographics, and determines how billions of dollars in public funds are allocated by state, local and federal lawmakers.

This process is undertaken every decade, but the 2020 Census has received an overwhelming amount of media interest this past year for a few different reasons. Due to the nature of how census data is collected, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the ability for in-person follow-up interviews for households who do not respond to the survey. Due to these data collection difficulties and the associated uncertainties the pandemic created, the data was released much later than expected.

What does the 2020 Census data tell us about Hampton Roads?

According to the 2020 Census, Hampton Roads’ population increased by roughly 5% from 2010 to 2020. This is the lowest decadal growth rate since the population of Hampton Roads shrank by roughly 3% between 1920 to 1930, and is the fourth decade in a row that the population growth rate has declined. Check out October’s Map of the Month for a more detailed visual representation of the 2020 Census data in Hampton Roads.

Known issues to note:

  • Upon further inspection of the data, there is a large decline from 2010 of over 9,000 Group Quarters residents in the census tract that houses Naval Station Norfolk. The City of Norfolk is inquiring with the Navy about the potential reasons this count could be so different, but some working theories are the way navy ships are being counted, or how active-duty military are being counted if they are deployed. We will know more once Norfolk’s inquiry is investigated.
  • As reported by UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center, census race data for the City of Williamsburg. appear to be incorrect. The 2020 Census data shows that the share of Williamsburg residents who identified as Black nearly tripled to 39% between 2010 and 2020, the majority of which are in the census blocks containing William & Mary dorms, while the State Council of Higher Education shows no growth in the number of Black students living in dorms during the same period.
  • In attempt to protect individual privacy of survey and census responders, the Census Bureau modernized privacy protection using a mathematical framework called Differential Privacy. Defined very simply, this process is designed to disguise personal information in published data by adding a little bit of “noise” to the data to blur the detail on individuals. Up close, the details may be fuzzy and difficult to piece together, but when pulled back, the details add together and make a sharper picture. According to the Weldon Cooper Center, it is possible that this adjustment in the data led to the apparent discrepancies in Williamsburg’s race data.
  • In addition to the decennial count, the Census Bureau provides one of the nation’s most comprehensive sources of information about the U.S. population in the results of the American Community Survey (ACS) – completed annually. Amid the pandemic, the way data was collected had to be adapted to keep Census workers and residents safe, temporarily shutting down operations like mailing information to households encouraging them to respond, following up in person with nonresponding households, and collecting data from group quarters in person. Due to these impacts, the Census Bureau will instead be releasing 2020 ACS 1-year data as experimental estimates because they do not meet their Statistical Data Quality Standards designed to ensure the utility, objectivity and integrity of the statistical information.

In a year that was unlike any other in recent memory, the results of the 2020 Census will need to be treated with caution, and possibly moving forward, 2019 Census data may be used in certain analyses and 2020 1-year ACS data will be noted as experimental where appropriate.

Bar Chart Depicting Historic Population Growth in Hampton Roads 1900-2020

Figure 1: Historic population growth in Hampton Roads, 1900—2020, total population and growth rates. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, HRPDC.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at krainone@hrpdcva.gov or ggrootendorst@hrpdcva.gov.

To view October's full economic monthly report, click HERE.

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Annualized Growth in GDP

Annualized Growth in GDP

Gross Domestic Product combines consumption, investment, net exports, and government spending to determine the size and general health of the economy. Real GDP increased 2.1% in Q4 2019 (GDP also grew by 2.1% in Q3 2019). The growth is driven in part by consumer spending, government spending, housing investment, and exports, while imports decreased. There was a decrease in inventory investment (-1.09%) as well as a reduction in business investment reflecting a decrease in structures and equipment.

 

 

Retail Sales

Retail Sales

Retail sales in Hampton Roads, as measured by the 1% local option sales tax, serve as an indicator for consumption in the region. Retail sales have bounced around, but after a surprisingly weak June, they continue to recover handily through to December (seasonally adjusted 3 month M.A.). Sales increased by 7.4% in December, making it Hampton Roads’ best December for total retail sales in recent years. Much of the recent growth in retail sales across the Commonwealth has been the result of increases in the number of online sales that are subject to tax.  

 

New Car Sales

New Car Sales

Car sales, as a durable good, may be put off until an individual’s economic prospects improve; thus, the number of new car sales indicates the level of confidence that households in Hampton Roads have in their financial future. Car sales have decreased and stabilized after an unusually strong September, hovering near the averages that have been observed over the past few years.

 

 

Hotel Sales

Hotel Sales

Hotel sales indicate the performance of the region’s tourism sector. In Q3 2019, accommodation sales decreased by 3.5%, settling at $220 billion for the quarter. This continues a pattern of slowing sales between second and third quarters in recent years, however, Q3 accommodation sales in 2019 increased 5.4% over Q3 2018. This shows accommodation sales are still trending upward from late-2013 lows.

 

Employment

Employment

Non-agricultural civilian employment figures are considered the best estimate of labor market activity by the National Bureau of Economic Research. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hampton Roads employment increased for the third month in a row since a recent high in June, to 796,600 positions in December of 2019. This figure represents a 1.05% growth from the same month in the previous year.

 

Employment Growth by Industry

Employment Growth by Industry

As the job market grows or declines, there will be some industries whose experience does not resemble the regional trend. Several industries have seen significant decline year-over-year using BLS data, including Administrative & Support and Local government. The Construction and Leisure & Hospitality industries continue to see the largest increases in jobs when compared to the previous year, signs of strength due to their key role in the regional economy.

 

Unemployment Rate

Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate is the percentage of the population actively seeking work but unable to obtain a position. Hampton Roads’ unemployment rate plateaued in December 2019 at 2.93%, the same rate it was in November. Comparatively, the national unemployment rate decreased again in December from the previous month to 3.5%, hovering at record lows.

 

Initial Unemployment

Initial Unemployment

The number of initial unemployment claims is a leading economic indicator reflecting those who are forced to leave work unexpectedly, thus revealing the strength of the job market with little lag time. Seasonal adjusted unemployment claims decreased in January 2020 to 2,438 claims, a decrease from December of 2019 but still above November’s recent low. This January number of claims represents a 17.6% decrease from the same month in 2018.

 

Housing Permits

Housing Permits

Permit data signals the level of construction employment and confidence regarding the future trajectory of the local economy. The level of new construction permitting for single family homes in December decreased to 352 permits, but when seasonally adjusted represents a slight increase relative to November. As the market continues to respond to the recently lowered federal interest rates, this indicator will be interesting to watch closely.

 

 

 

Home Price Index

Home Price Index

The home price index measures the value of homes by evaluating changing price levels through repeated sales of properties. The index provides the highest quality data available on the trends in the real estate market. Hampton Roads’ home prices increased, yet again, by 4.2% over the previous year in Q3 2019, remaining below both the state and the nation. Regional housing values remain 4.3% below those seen during the peak of the housing boom.

 

Settled Home Sales

Settled Home Sales

Settled home sales measure the level of transactions on the real estate market over time, and a healthy real estate market should have a consistent level of activity. The levels of existing home sales have been strong recently, with sales maintaining the same average level as during the housing boom in 2005. New construction sales in January saw a slight dip from December, continuing to represent roughly 11% of all sales.

 

 

Foreclosures

Foreclosures

Foreclosures have a significant impact on the real estate market and community, depressing home values on a neighborhood and regional level. Distressed homes’ share of total sales has particularly been shown to impact the sale price of existing homes. The foreclosure level is still elevated from the housing boom, but has been steadily declining, showing some of the lowest rates since 2009. Foreclosures constituted 4.2% of all home resales in December of 2019, down from a recent high of 8.1% in April of 2016 (12-month average).

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