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Employment Declines in August

Employment Declines in August

By James Clary, Economist

Hampton Roads’ payroll employment declined by 5 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in August (3 jobs on an unadjusted basis), marking the largest decline since Oct. 2007 and the fourth largest month over month decline since 1990. This represents three-quarters of a percent decline in regional payrolls, and continues a pattern of economic weakness that has lingered since the official end of the recession. Hampton Roads’ payrolls are still 50 jobs below the former employment peak of 781 jobs (seasonally adjusted) achieved in July 2007.

While July’s employment estimate was revised higher by 1 jobs (seasonally adjusted), it is the only month to realize employment gains (year over year) since the onset of the recession. Virginia also experienced a small dip in jobs in August (6 jobs, -0.17% of state employment) while the nation neither added nor lost jobs. As can be seen from the indexed employment graphic below, the nation has been recovering from the decline in employment more quickly than the region, but that recovery has stalled over the past few months.

An examination of payrolls by industry shows that there has been strong growth in ship & boat building (1 jobs, a 7.95% increase) and in leisure and hospitality (6 jobs, a 7.36% increase) services since August last year, but information (-1 jobs, a 12.3% decline), financial activities associated with real estate (-700 jobs, -4.61%) and retail trade (-3 jobs, -4.51%) have experienced marked declines. The graphic below shows the change in industry employment over the past decade, indicating long-term employment trends.

The regional unemployment rate increased significantly for the first time since Decemeber 2009, increasing from 6.83% in July to 7.04% in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, still below the 7.49% rate experienced at the beginning of 2009. This is still more than 2% below the national rate of 9.09% in August. The state unemployment rate also increased in August, moving from 6.10% to 6.32%, lower than that of the region. The increase in the unemployment rate on the state level was driven by both increases in the size of the labor force and decreases in the number of employed persons.