The most recent release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a gain of 3,500 non-farm civilian jobs in Hampton Roads from May ’15 to June ’15, the largest monthly increase in over two years. The region has continued to struggle in its attempt to recover from the Great Recession. Over the past year, there have been seven months of positive growth, offset by five months of decline.
In spite of the five months of decline, Hampton Roads has posted a net gain on a year-over-year basis and is up 9,800 civilian jobs from June of 2014. Unfortunately the region remains almost 19,000 civilian jobs below its pre-recession peak, while both the Nation and the Commonwealth have surpassed their pre-recession peaks and are continuing to experience growth. Hampton Roads’ struggle to gain traction during the recovery has been due in large part to the out-flow of federal dollars, both in terms of reduced military personnel (down by over 25,000 in the past decade), and cuts in contracting dollars. The region’s civilian employment gains have thus been against the tide of federal resources that have left the region.
Over the past year, Hampton Roads has experienced strong employment growth in the Construction, Finance & Insurance, Education, Administrative & Support, and Retail Trade sectors, while experiencing declines in the Manufacturing, Healthcare & Social Assistance, and Local Government sectors. Over the past eight years, Local Government, Retail Trade, and Construction have accounted for the lion’s share of civilian employment cuts.
Hampton Roads’ June unemployment rate edged down to 5.4% from 5.5% in May. The national unemployment rate dipped below the regional rate for the first time in 18 years, as the nation continues to experience a strong recovery. Unemployment rates are a function of the size of the labor force and the number of persons who are considered unemployed. While the monthly rate is useful as a point of comparison, the trend in unemployment rates provides a clearer understanding of relative economic wellbeing. Hampton Roads’ slowly declining unemployment rate further illustrates the sluggish pace of the region’s recovery.