Unemployment steady in Hampton Roads

Published 6:43 pm Saturday, February 27, 2010

While unemployment numbers in Virginia continue to hover around 6.7 percent, a regional economist says Hampton Roads is doing better than the nation in its unemployment.

“We’re doing quite well in comparison’s sake,” said James Clary, an economist with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. “Our unemployment rate is up to 6.9 percent. That represents an increase from where we were last quarter, but still below the highs in June and July.

Compared to the nation, the region is doing 2 percent better in unemployment. Clary noted military personnel are not included in Hampton Roads numbers. If they were, unemployment would be only 6.1 percent.

“Military employment and defense spending have stabilized the Hampton Roads economy during this recession,” Clary said.

Since December 2007, the Hampton Roads region has added 11,000 people to the labor force, Clary said.

“That separates the Hampton Roads labor market from the discouraged workers story experienced in other parts of the country,” Clary said.

For the coming year, Clary is cautiously optimistic about the region’s economy. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission’s quarterly report predicts that employment will increase about .8 percent in 2010. The commission’s economists also predict that government, education and health care employment will remain strong, while retail and wholesale sales will continue to suffer as they have throughout the recession.

For people looking for employment, an industry trends report from Indeed.com estimates that Hampton Roads has four unemployed workers per job opening, placing the region out of top 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. By comparison, Washington, D.C. has one unemployed person per job opening, and Detroit has 14 unemployed per job opening.