That was the unemployment rate in Hampton Roads in February – some 26,302 people reported they are unemployed and are looking for work.
Then the coronavirus intensified, businesses closed, laid off or furloughed their workers and residents hunkered down in their homes.
Over the last three weeks, 64,963 residents of the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area filed an initial unemployment claim, and according to an estimate from Old Dominion University’s Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, the unemployment rate in Hampton Roads is now approximately 10.6 percent.
The Dragas Center said nonseasonally adjusted data from Virginia’s Employment Commission shows initial unemployment claims continued to climb for the cities and counties in the Hampton Roads. For the week ending April 4, 29,961 individuals filed initial claims for unemployment insurance, an increase of 5,904 claims from the prior week.
“The change in economic conditions is historic and stunning in its speed,” said Professor Robert McNab, director of the Dragas Center. “In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate in Hampton Roads reached 7.8% in February 2010, two years after the financial crisis. Three weeks have almost erased all the gains in employment over the last decade.”
According to the Dragas Center, unemployment claims in Virginia Beach increased from 7,386 to 8,754 and in Norfolk from 3,446 to 4,190. Chesapeake and Newport News also saw significant increases in claims from the previous week. One glimmer of good news is that the rate of growth in claims slowed from the previous week for all cities and counties.
With the continued economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the Dragas Center projects that layoffs will continue to rise as social distancing measures remain in effect, spreading to other industries not initially impacted.
The Virginia Employment Commission attributed a significant portion of this week’s initial claims to layoffs in the manufacturing, transportation and health care sectors.
With significant declines in hotel occupancy and projections of declining international trade volumes, the region will be challenged in the coming weeks, according to the center.
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