Hampton Roads employment grew by 2,000 jobs in January of 2015, increasing employment to 758,000 (seasonally adjusted). This followed a decline of 1,100 in December of 2014, continuing a pattern of weak jobs growth regionally. Hampton Roads’ average employment has grown at less than half the national employment growth rate with regional employment 23,200 jobs below the prerecession peak (a 3% decline). If Hampton Roads continues adding jobs at a rate of 400 jobs-per-month (the post-recession average), the region will not recover its employment peak (781,200) until November of 2019.
Hampton Roads’ unemployment rate was 5.52% in January of 2015, but only 5.20% when adjusted for seasonal trends. Over the past year, the unemployment rate has declined by 0.7 percentage points, which has been driven by increases in employment. The fact that the labor force has grown consistently as the unemployment rate has declined demonstrates a strengthening in the regional labor market.
The Bureau of Labor Statics uses two different surveys to produce the employment and unemployment data for the nation, states, and regions. The variability in estimates grows as focus moves from larger to smaller subsets of the labor market; therefore, the estimates need to be periodically benchmarked to the underlying data. The most recent data release featured an annual revision.
The employment trend continued to track the original estimates, but over the past eighteen months, the revised data indicated a slightly less volatile employment pattern. It also indicated that Hampton Roads employment was 4,500 jobs lower in December of 2014, as the revised data did not indicate the rapid employment growth in the second half of 2014.
At the industry level, the employment changes were more significant, changing not only the overall level of employment, but also changing employment trends within industries.
Scientific and technical services employment had a significant positive revision, with employment in this important sector increasing by 2,300. Other industries had significant negative revisions, with a decline of 3,500 in retail trade and a 5,500 decline in leisure and hospitality employment.