Hampton Roads’ seasonally adjusted employment grew by 1,200 jobs in December of 2013, resulting in regional total of 762,700 non-farm civilian jobs. This was the second consecutive month of employment gains, as the region added 2,300 jobs in November. While there is a tremendous amount of volatility in the month-to-month employment estimates, the region has added 9,300 jobs since December of 2012, and is now only 17,900 positions (2.3%) below the region’s previous employment peak in July of 2007. Currently, Hampton Roads is on pace to return to full employment by December of 2015, though it could take until November of 2016 if the region slows down to its long-term average job growth.
More than a third of employment growth over the past year has come from Healthcare and Social Assistance (+3,600 between December‘12 and December‘13). The Healthcare and Social Assistance industry was the only industry to grow through both the recession and early stages of the recovery (it is up 14,500 positions since December‘07). Construction employment (+2,100), Administrative & Support Services (+1,900), and Finance & Insurance (+1,600) has also increased year over year. Over the past year, jobs have declined both in direct Federal employment (-1,800) and Scientific & Technical Services (-1,400), a major industry for federal contractors.
Unemployment Rate Continues to Decrease
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.65% in December’13, from 5.84% in November’13. The improvement in the unemployment rate was driven by both higher levels of employment and a shrinking labor force (labor force has shrunk by 6,340 over the past 3 months, although it remains 4,700 above the figure for December’12). The Hampton Roads unemployment rate is a full percentage point below the U.S. unemployment rate, though remains almost half a percentage point above Virginia’s unemployment rate.