Hampton Roads’ employment fell by 2,400 jobs in Apr-14 (seasonally adjusted), with the most recent employment totals of 749,700 jobs dropping below the same month of the prior year by 2,400 positions. Since the start of 2014 year-over-year employment has shrunk, for the first time since 2010. This disappointing jobs report comes even as the nation maintains a moderate growth rate, adding an average 197,000 jobs per month since the beginning of the year. The Commonwealth’s experience has been similar to that of Hampton Roads, experiencing weak employment performance over the past year. This suggests that both the regional and state-wide employment weakness emanate from a common source, declining levels of Federal spending.
Regional employment has fallen to 31,200 jobs below the Jul-07 levels, a 4% decrease from the pre-recession peak. By contrast, both the commonwealth and the nation have recovered to within 1% of their prerecession peak, indicating both a more durable recovery in the U.S., and the benefits that accrued to Virginia (particularly in Northern Virginia) during the stimulus spending earlier in the recovery.
Several industries have seen their employment growth stall recently, as construction has virtually stopped its year-over-year growth in employment (+100), and even healthcare which has grown significantly year-over-year (+2,500) but has also experienced its growth rate slow in the past few months (it had been up by as many as +3,700 jobs in March, year-over-year).
The Hampton Roads seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased slightly to 5.55% in Apr-14, from 5.53% Mar-14, but there were several encouraging factors underlying the headline number. The labor force expanded again, adding 2,754 individuals in Apr-14 and over 10,000 year-over-year, indicating optimism regarding the economy and employment opportunities. Additionally, the number of individuals reporting that they have found employment increased again, for the fourth straight month in 2014. The region’s 5.55% unemployment rate remains above the Commonwealth’s (4.9 %) but below the nation’s (6.3%).