Nearly two years ago to the day, the U.S. economy came to a screeching halt as COVID-19 spread rapidly. The job market, which provides fuel for the housing market, was jolted. Millions of Americans lost their jobs within a couple months. Virginia was also hit hard by these job losses. So now that we’ve all gone through one of the fastest economic recoveries on record, let’s take stock of where we are in Virginia with our job recovery, how we compare to other states, which job sectors have fared the best, and which are still recovering.
Virginia has almost recovered all of the jobs lost during the pandemic, though many states have recovered faster than we have. Virginia is nearly back to pre-pandemic job levels, which is certainly good news for the housing market. As of December 2021, there were about 3.98 million jobs across the commonwealth, which is 101,000 jobs short of where we were before the pandemic began. Another way to look at it: Virginia’s job base is at about 97.5% of where it was before the pandemic sent shock waves through the economy. That’s pretty close to a full recovery. Virginia’ economy has added over 377,000 jobs since the low-point in April of 2020, when the state’s job base abruptly lost about 478,000 jobs in the span of two months. We anticipate that all jobs in Virginia will have been recovered by the end of this year or by early next year.
Virginia Total Jobs
While our job recovery here in Virginia has been strong, there are many other states that have recovered faster. As of December 2021, Virginia’s job recovery ranks 21st out of the 50 states. Only four states; Utah, Idaho, Texas, and Arizona, have fully recovered and actually have more jobs now than before the pandemic began. Another five states are very close to full recovery, including our neighbors to the south, Tennessee and North Carolina. Other major job centers along the northeastern corridor like Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts have recovered more slowly than Virginia.
Pandemic-Era Job Recovery by State
The job recovery in Virginia has been concentrated in several key sectors; others continue to be below pre-pandemic levels. Virginia’s job recovery has varied widely by job sector. For example, only three sectors have now fully recovered and have grown above pre-pandemic job levels. They are the Transportation and Warehousing sector (+21,000 jobs above pre-pandemic levels), the Professional and Technical Services Sector (+20,800 jobs), and Federal Government jobs (+1,500 jobs). These are relatively high-paying sectors, which is one reason why Virginia’s housing market has fared so well over the last couple years. Workers in these sectors are more likely to be homeowners. In fact, homeownership rates in these three sectors are some of the highest in the state, led by the Professional and Technical Services sector, where nearly three out of every four workers in this sector in Virginia are in a household that owns their home (73% homeownership rate).
Several job sectors in Virginia continue to recover at a slower pace, which mirrors national trends. By far, the hardest hit sector is the Leisure and Hospitality sector. As of December 2021, this sector is still down by nearly 51,000 jobs in Virginia compared to pre-pandemic levels. Now to be clear, there has been significant improvement in this job sector. At one point, the job totals in this sector were about half the level they were before the pandemic began. Now they are at about 88% of pre-pandemic levels. Within the Leisure and Hospitality sector, Accommodation and Food Services jobs continue to recover the slowest. These types of jobs were impacted not only by the initial waves of the virus in 2020, but also the subsequent variant waves in 2021. As more people start to travel again, especially business travelers, this sector should continue to recover in Virginia.
The Health Care sector has also recovered slower, as churn in the labor pool continues to be high, and many healthcare workers are either retiring or looking for career changes. Despite these challenges, the Health Care sector in Virginia is nearing pre-pandemic employment. As of December 2021, there were about 450,000 healthcare jobs in Virginia, which is about 14,000 fewer health care jobs than before the pandemic began. This represents about a 97.4% recovery in the total number of healthcare jobs.
Virginia Job Recovery by Sector