Hampton Roads' seasonally adjusted employment grew by 2,200 in Feb-14 to 751,400, a 0.3% increase. This slight increase followed a rather dismal 5 month stretch starting in Sep-13, where employment declined in four out of five months and declined by 5,900 positions. Year-over-year employment turned negative during this period, for the first time since Feb-11, and February’s employment was 2,200 less than the employment in Feb-13.
Virginia’s recovery also stalled over the past year, and the state has experienced no appreciable employment growth since Feb-13. Both the state and region’s employment stagnation is likely the result of decreased federal spending in the economy. By contrast the U.S. recovery has been consistent and has added an average of 184,000 jobs every month since Jan-11, and while this is only a 0.14% increase, it has been sustained. Nationally, private employment has reached the prerecession level and total employment is only 0.3% below the prerecession peak. Hampton Roads' employment trails its prerecession peak by 30,300 jobs, or 3.9%.
The regional seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 5.52% in Jan-14 to 5.46% in Feb-14, resulting in an increase in the count of people listed as employed. The region’s unemployment rate fell by more than half a percentage point over the past year, and that improvement featured both a decrease in the number of unemployed and an increase in the size of the labor force, signaling optimism about the regional economy. This provides a stark contrast to the employment report, which utilizes a survey of businesses rather than a survey of individuals to make its estimate. This indicates that more individuals are self-employed, free lancing, or working on a contract basis rather than being put on a business’s payroll.
It is also important to note that nationally, the decline in unemployment rate has begun to benefit those with lower levels of education and human capital, as the unemployment rate for those without a high school degree has begun to decline rapidly. This indicates that the benefits of recovery should begin spreading throughout the national workforce, which typically provides a boost for national retail spending.