Hampton Roads’ seasonally adjusted employment declined by 1,100 jobs in December of 2014, the first monthly decline since April, 2014. While the region overall experienced strong employment growth since December of 2013 (+8,300, a 1.1% gain), Hampton Roads remains 21,200 jobs below the pre-recession peak. Although there are several factors that can influence the regional labor market, it will likely take two to four years for regional employment to return to pre-recession levels. Comparatively, both the U.S. (in May-14) and Virginia (in Nov-14) have surpassed their pre-recession levels of employment.
Industry employment in Hampton Roads revealed several interesting trends. Most importantly, the declines in Federal spending continue to impact industries that are tied to federal contracts, including: scientific & technical services (-2,600 jobs from Dec-13 to Dec-14), administrative & support (-900 jobs), and management industries (-300 jobs). Local government employment has also declined year-over-year because of continued weakness in local revenue collections and declining real levels of support from the Commonwealth and the federal government. The region has experienced strong growth in retail trade (+3,600 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (+3,800 jobs), reflecting strength in the tourism industry as well as continuing growth throughout the regional economy. Other industries that have realized year-over-year growth are still recovering from the structural impact of the recession, namely construction (+1,300 jobs) and finance & insurance (+1,000 jobs). There are still 12,000 fewer jobs in the construction industry than before the recession (almost 60% of the region’s missing jobs).
Unemployment declined from 5.4% in November of 2014 to 5.3% in December (seasonally adjusted). This decline results both from more individuals indicating they are employed as well as a declining labor force. The region’s labor force (includes both employed and unemployed) currently totals 836,328, up less than 1% from when Hampton Roads entered into the recession in 2007. Both the region and the Commonwealth have experienced rapidly declining unemployment rates over the past few months.