Just one of Virginia’s 10 metropolitan areas has fully rebounded, jobs-wise, to pre-COVID levels, while the other nine have varying degrees of progress yet to make, according to new state data.
While all metro areas except Richmond saw higher non-farm-based employment this September than a year before, nine remained below their September 2019 figures, according to an analysis of Virginia Employment Commission data by the Sun Gazette.
Statewide, there were 3,929,000 people counted as employed in the September 2021 report – released in mid-October – a figure that remains down 2.9 percent from September 2019 figures (although up 1.9 percent from the 3,856,000 of September 2020).
Comparing Septembers of 2021 and 2019, the only metro corridor to be in positive territory is Winchester, where the 67,200 jobs reported in the September 2021 report marked a 2.1 percent increase from 65,800 two years before.
That might not be a particular surprise, as Winchester had one of the smallest dropoffs in overall employment due to COVID even during the immediate aftermath of the pandemic’s arrival.
Two other metro areas are nearly back to pre-pandemic times: Staunton-Waynesboro in September recorded 99.6 percent of its pre-COVID jobs level, while Blacksburg-Christiansburg had reached 99.2 percent. Harrisonburg (down 1.6 percent) and Northern Virginia (off 1.8 percent) also are within striking distance.
Other metro areas, however, still have a way to go:
• Jobs are down 7.7 percent from September 2019 in Charlottesville.
• Richmond currently reports 5.5 percent fewer jobs.
• Lynchburg remains down 5 percent.
• Hampton Roads is still off 4.2 percent.
• Roanoke is off 2.6 percent.
The pandemic arrived in force in Virginia starting in March 2020, and significantly impacted employment for several months thereafter before beginning a slow improvement. Until early September 2021, the unemployed were receiving extra payments from the federal government to supplement state unemployment compensation.