Economic Impact: Richmond region’s job growth is better than state and nation

Christine Chmura | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Richmond area’s economy was hit harder during the recession than the state and nation, in part because of its dependence on finance and insurance industries.

Now the employment growth in the Richmond region is outpacing all of the metropolitan areas in the state and is growing slightly faster than the nation on a year-over-year basis.

The latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission for March show Richmond employment is 1.8 percent above a year ago while Virginia’s employment is flat and the nation saw a 1.7 percent jump.

As of November 2013, employment in Richmond area passed the peak employment level of 635,541 that was reached prior to the recession. Since then, it has exceeded that peak by 8,599 jobs.

The nation likely will reach its previous peak this summer. With Virginia job growth stalling under the weight of federal spending cuts that are mainly occurring in Northern Virginia, it might not reach its previous peak until 2015.

Of the 10 major industry sectors that economists classify businesses into, the information sector grew the fastest in the Richmond area.

Employment in that sector is up 8.8 percent from a year ago, but it is a small sector with only 8,700 workers. That growth translates into an additional 700 jobs over the past year.

This sector includes firms that provide information such as software publishers, sound recording studios and satellite communications.

The average wages for this sector are $60,034, according to preliminary estimates for the fourth quarter of 2013 from Chmura Economics & Analytics. That’s better than the average $46,962 for all industries in the metro area.

The higher the wages of new jobs, the more it creates a ripple effect in the economy. Those workers have more money to spend on goods and services in the area.

The retail sector is undoubtedly benefiting from the faster employment growth in the Richmond area. It experienced the largest increase in the number of jobs during the past 12 months ending with March by adding 3,900 jobs.

Health and education services sector followed with 2,900 additional jobs.

And the finance, insurance and real estate sector, which was hit hard during the recession, continues to recover. That sector had the third-largest increase by adding 1,400 jobs during the past 12 months.

The 11,600 gain in employment in the Richmond region during the past year occurred across most major industry sectors.

Such a broad-based growth points to a healthy economy. Clearly a lack of dependence on federal government spending is now favoring the RVA economy.

Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Used by permission.