Ten years ago, Hampton Roads non-farm civilian employment peaked with 781,600 people on the region’s payrolls. A decade later the nation has long-since recovered, but our region is still languishing in its attempt to replace the jobs lost during the Great Recession. The closure of the Ford plant coupled with a national economy showing signs of strain from the housing correction, drove Hampton Roads into recession half a year earlier than the rest of the nation. Typically, national defense spending insulates the region from the full effects of a recession, however, declines in defense spending due to reduced operations in the Middle East, followed by national budget issues resulting in sequestration, caused the region to experience recession as severe as the rest of the nation.
While Virginia and the nation both attained their pre-recession levels of civilian employment in 2013, July 2017 estimates indicate regional employment lags its prerecession peak by 16,600 jobs, a 2.1% decline. This decline can be attributed to variations in defense spending, as growth from spending increases in 2003 to 2007 became hampered by rapid declines in the following years, weakening the economic recovery. The region’s rapid expansion from 2003-2007 fed into a housing bubble, with regional home prices 119% above 2000 levels by 2007, while national prices only stood at 65% above their levels in 2007 compared with 2000. The subsequent correction from the Great Recession led to lower levels of employment in construction (-12,600) and in local government (-7,300) in Hampton Roads.
Unfortunately, economic silver bullets do not exist. The path forward requires us to work towards increasing educational attainment in the region, and enhancing Hampton Roads competitiveness with other regions.
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, HRPDC