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Charlottesville Has Lowest Unemployment in Virginia; Hampton Roads Still Struggling

The latest round of unemployment numbers tell a tale of two Virginias, one thriving and another struggling.

Charlottesville has the lowest unemployment in Virginia, 3.4 percent. That’s in stark contrast to the Hampton Roads area, which is still struggling years after the recession. Stephen Fuller at George Mason University says Virginia Beach and Newport News haven’t been able to regain all the jobs they lost during the recession. And then it was hit with a double whammy. 

“It was very hard hit by the sequester in 2013 and had another downturn. The economy shrank actually in 2014. So it’s had a hard time because of its dependence on federal spending."

Hamilton Lombard at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service says unemployment numbers are helpful. But there’s an important part of the story they’re not telling us. 

“If you look at areas around Hampton Roads and compare them to Northern Virginia, you’ll find that there is about 10 percent of the working age population, that’s just quit looking altogether. So they’re not in the labor force. And if you go into Southwest Virginia in some of these areas, they have the same thing."

Lombard says the most important factor is the level of education. Hampton Roads as the same education levels as the rest of the country, and its unemployment rate is about the same. Charlottesville, on the other hand, has high levels of education and low levels of unemployment.

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