Hampton Roads’ employment grew by 1,500 this past September. This followed a strong August (+1,900), and after five straight months of jobs growth, regional employment is 756,700, a level last seen in November 2008. Since May, Hampton Roads’ employment growth (+0.91% over five months) has outpaced the nation (0.84%) and the state (0.23%). Unfortunately, several items undermine the positivity of this report.
One, Hampton Roads’ growth comes from a much lower level of employment than that of the nation, and the region’s employment is still 25,000 jobs below the peak in Jul-07.
Second, a review of both the Commonwealth’s and Virginia’s MSA employment estimates number indicates that the Hampton Roads’ employment estimate is likely to experience a downward revision. State employment estimates typically require a smaller degree of revision than the estimates for a metropolitan area, and the inconsistencies between state and regional estimates will eventually be resolved during the revision process. Virginia employment fell by 7,400 in Sep-14, while the cumulative job growth in all the Commonwealth’s metropolitan areas was 1,400. There is simply not sufficient employment in non-metro Virginia to explain that 8,800 difference in employment growth.
With the strong headline number, many of the region’s industries showed growing employment this past September. Particularly, retail trade employment increased 3,200 year-over-year, and employment also gained in administrative and support (+2,600) as well as education services (+1,200). Scientific and technical services had the largest decline year-over- year (-3,500), but this represents an improvement over the August figure (-4,100).
Hampton Roads’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was flat in September, decreasing from 5.77% to 5.74%. A small decrease in the labor force between August and September drove this slight improvement in the September estimate, though the unemployment rate has decreased over the past year, decreasing by 0.23%. As the regional unemployment rate holds steady and the national rate continues to decline, the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate has increased over the past several months. If this trend continues, all three unemployment rates could shortly be the same, the first time the state and regional unemployment rate would not outperform that of the nation in the past 25 years.