Hampton Roads seasonally adjusted non-farm civilian employment declined by 2,600 in March 2013, the third swing between increasing and decreasing employment in as many months. While overall, Hampton Roads employment has grown over this four month period, the inconsistent growth indicates the fragility of the regional labor market, and by extension Hampton Roads’ economy. Regional employment remains 3.2% below prerecession levels, and the long-term regional recovery appears to be slower and weaker than the national recovery.
Construction continues to show strong year-over-year growth, expanding by 3,700 jobs between March 2012 and March 2013. Healthcare, which expanded throughout the recession, has continued to grow during the recovery, and recently, manufacturing employment has begun increasing, driven by transportation equipment manufacturing (particularly ship and boat building). Retail and wholesale trade employment continues to struggle during the region’s tepid recovery, and scientific and technical services also have declined (-600 year-over-year).
Hampton Roads seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 5.91% in March 2013, down from 6.12% in February. Both a shrinking labor force and an increase in the number employed pushed down the March unemployment rate, but both employment and labor force have grown strongly from March 2012 (labor force increased 5,342 year-over-year and employment increased 12,084 year-over-year).