After a one month hiatus due to the government shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released two consecutive months of non-farm civilian employment figures (payroll employment) for metropolitan areas throughout the nation. The two-month release revealed a significant decline in Hampton Roads’ seasonally adjusted employment, which dropped by 8,000 between Aug-13 and Oct-13, resulting in the worst two month period since the spring of 2009. Jobs in the region fell by 1.05%, from 767,000 in Aug-13 to 759,000 in Oct-13. Over the same time frame national employment increased by 0.28%, adding an average of 190,000 jobs per month.
The government shutdown likely had a large influence on regional employment, as workers were furloughed and contracts were held up. There are positive implications to this, as we are likely to recover many of the lost jobs now that the nation has a budget. Unfortunately, this is a self-induced crisis that the nation risks repeating at the beginning of 2014. Additionally, sequestration and the associated uncertainty of reduced government expenditures could be slowing job growth in many contracting companies in Hampton Roads.
Year-over-year changes in employment by industry show continued recovery in Construction (+3,300), Finance & Insurance (+2,200), and Leisure & Hospitality (+1,700) as well as continued strength in Healthcare employment (+3,300). Federal employment continues to shrink (-2,000), as well as Scientific & Technical Services (-1,100) which are heavily associated with government contracting. While Construction employment continues to improve, employment in that industry is still 9,200 positions below the Oct-07 level, a 19% decline.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Hampton Roads has been between 5.8% and 6.1% for the past six months. The region’s labor force declined by 3,000 individuals between Sep-13 and Oct-13, but it is unclear to what extent the government shutdown impacted unemployment statistics. While the recovery in Hampton Roads has not been as quick as the nation as a whole, the unemployment rate for the region was 5.9% in Oct-13, which is the seventh lowest for the 34 comparable metropolitan areas.