By James Clary
Hampton Roads’ March 2011 payroll employment increased by 3 jobs on a seasonally adjusted, basis continuing the pattern of high volatility in the regional jobs report. Payrolls are down by 49 from their peak in July 2007 and remain below regional payroll employment figures of March 2002 (by 0.2%). While it is difficult to apply seasonal adjustment to industrial payroll numbers, year over year comparison identifies industries that have shown strength over the past year. Since March 2010, healthcare & social assistance (1), leisure & hospitality (1), and employment services (2) have added jobs. Several industries have suffered significantly over the past year, including local government (-3) and retail trade (-1); retail trade has lost 10 jobs since the start of the recession, making it the most affected industry outside of construction.
To better understand payroll employment figures it is important to understand that payroll employment excludes military personnel, the self-employed, farm workers, and some categories of railroad workers. In addition, because of the nature of surveying existing businesses, the survey does a poor job capturing jobs derived from recently started business, so there remains a strong possibility that the payroll survey will not identify the regional jobs recovery until well after it has occurred. This is a strong report for Hampton Roads, but several months of sustained activity are required before any true pattern will emerge. It is noteworthy that U.S. employment losses experienced a recessionary decline several months after the decline began in Hampton Roads (January 2008 vs. August 2007) and that the nation has started to recover more quickly than Hampton Roads.