In April of 2020, nationwide unemployment reached its highest rate in decades at 14.7%, a loss of 20.5 million jobs according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Every state saw their labor force impacted by shutdowns and layoffs including Virginia, which saw its unemployment climb to 11.6% in April of that year. Two years later, the U.S. economy has bounced back, and we are seeing many industries that were hit hard by the coronavirus recovering at a rapid rate. Let’s look at the industries and areas in Virginia where job recovery is the strongest and where there is still recouping to be done.
Virginia has fully recovered the net number of jobs lost during the pandemic. Before the pandemic there were 4.09 million jobs across the state in January of 2020, this number drastically changed as the coronavirus slowed down the economy. By April of 2020, there were 478,000 jobs lost in the commonwealth. Now, the number of jobs in Virginia has surpassed pre-pandemic levels with jobs reaching 4.10 million in the month of October this year. This means that 488,400 jobs have been added since the significant drop off in April two years ago.
While job recovery at the state level has outperformed 2020 levels, there are also many industries that have seen significant growth since the start of the pandemic. Of the twelve largest job sectors, about half of them have fully recovered and advanced past pre-pandemic levels. The sector with the most significant growth was Transportation and Warehousing, with 12,800 additional jobs added since the beginning of 2020, a 10% gain. Administrative service jobs increased to 263,200 (+13,500 jobs), Professional and Technical services reached 455,500, (+11,700 jobs), followed by the Federal Government with 188,400 (+3,800 jobs).
Other sectors in Virginia’s job market are recovering at a slower pace. The slowest job growth this month was in the Finance and Insurance sector with 149,600 jobs, down 7,500 jobs from January 2020, which is a 5% decrease. Leisure and Hospitality were one of the industries hit hardest by COVID-19 due to restrictions and variants of the virus making travel difficult. It has experienced job growth compared to October of last year (+31,500 jobs) but is still short of pre-pandemic levels (-17,300 jobs).
Virginia’s metropolitan areas have experienced various degrees of job recovery since the beginning of the pandemic. Virginia Beach is still 11,400 jobs short of where it was pre-pandemic followed by Richmond (-11,200 jobs) and Charlottesville (-3,500 jobs). Although some areas had jobs decrease, many metro areas saw job increases from before the pandemic. Blacksburg had 82,300 jobs in October, an increase of 3,700 since January 2020. The second biggest gain was in Winchester with 2,000 jobs followed by Northern Virginia with 800 additional jobs.
Virginia’s recovered labor market growth is a sign that the state’s economy is continuing to make progress after the economic fallout of COVID-19. The job market has remained strong but with the housing market slowdown and high inflation rate, employment may begin to take a hit if consumer demand falls and the cost of labor is cut.