Bacon Bits: Cloudy Day Edition

Neo-Nazies on the loose. I’ve been highly critical of Attorney General Mark Herring for spinning state crime statistics to imply that there has been a surge in white supremacist hate crimes in Virginia. But that’s not to say there aren’t hateful white supremacists residing in the the state. The Daily Beast describes how an FBI crackdown on the so-called “Atomwaffen Division,” which it describes as a “homicidal neo-Nazi guerilla organization,” has netted criminal charges against two alleged members of the group’s Virginia cell. In June, the FBI arrested Brian Patricks Baynes, of Fairfax, on gun possession charges. And in September, the bureau arrested 21-year-old Andrew Jon Thomasberg, of McLean. The white-supremacist threat is real, and it must be taken seriously. But let’s not blow that threat out of proportion.

The Staunton Miracle. Rural Virginia may be in an economic funk, but Virginia’s smaller metros seem to be holding up pretty well. The Staunton/Waynesboro labor market has the lowest unemployment rate of any in the state — 2.5%, according to August 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by the News Leader. Next lowest: Charlottesville and Winchester at 2.6%, Harrisonburg at 2.7%, and Roanoke at 2.8%. Among major metros, Richmond is the lowest at 2.9%. We hear all the time — and I have perpetuated this narrative — that most of the jobs are going to the big metros. Is this true? We can’t tell from unemployment data alone. We also need to look at job creation, under-employment and workforce-participation rates. Regardless, it’s good to see that almost everyone who wants a job in small-metro Virginia seems to have one.

A voice for the voiceless. The Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust, a former sponsor of this blog, is making progress toward building Virginia’s first coalition to address the affordability crisis in higher education. The Virginia College Affordability Policy Council met last week to discuss solutions to problems of affordability and workforce readiness. Co-chairs include James V. Koch, former president of Old Dominion University, and Brett A. Vassey, president of the Virginia Manufacturers Association. The group has recruited a wide range of businesses and trade associations as members. You can view Koch’s presentation here.

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10 responses to “Bacon Bits: Cloudy Day Edition

  1. Staunton population – 24,992, about the same as in 1970.
    Waynesboro population – 22,628, up from 16,707 in 1970
    Augusta County population – 75,457, up from 44,220 in 1970

    Total population in 1970 – 123,077
    Total population in 2018 – 184,004

    CAGR – 0.84%

    Virginia population in 1970 – 4,648,494
    Virginia population in 2019 – 8,517,685

    CAGR – 1.27%

    So, it seems that the Staunton / Waynesboro MSA (including towns and unincorporated areas in Augusta County) can sustain population growth at about 2/3 the overall rate in Virginia.

    Shouldn’t every rural and micropolitan area in Virginia be going through the same type of analysis? What population level, over time, can our local economy sustain?

  2. Very good point, DJR. And, we paint a broad picture of migration from rural to urban, and it may be true, urban is where the jobs are; but that begs several questions: how diffuse is the “urban” effect when it comes to the smaller cities; and are those areas really growing proportionately as much as the presumed Statewide pattern of ‘migration’ suggests; and what are the factors (such as housing cost, type of housing, walkability, gentrification) that are encouraging or limiting migration into those smaller urban areas? What about the smaller urban areas that have not benefitted as much, like Roanoke, or Petersburg? For example, I’d be fascinated to know how the age and education and type-of-employment distribution of Staunton’s residents has changed even if the total population has remained constant over 50 years.

    • As Hamilton Lombard pointed out in a recent post response, there does not seem to have been as much movement from the rural areas to urban areas as supposed. The Applied Population Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, has compiled net migration data for all U.S. counties. For 2000-2010, the majority of rural counties in Virginia experienced positive migrant rates, or at worst, 0 percent migrant rate. From the map provided with the data, the positive migrant rate is evident along the I-81 corridor, in Central Virginia, and especially in the ex-urban area bordering Charlottesville-Fredericksburg-Northern Virginia. Even the counties east of i-95 in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck experience positive migration. Not surprisingly, Southside counties, far Southwest counties, and those tucked up next to West Virginia in the west (Highland, Bath, and Allegheny) showed negative migration. Even more suprising was the negative migration experienced by the urban areas of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake.

  3. I too would like to see what kind of jobs there was growth in (and shrinkage).

    We go down through Lynchburg and Danville several times a year and recently took a side trip into Lynchubrg to check out their Blackwater Cree trail which is a deep cut through the city that the city grew up around and most of the housing stock is fairly old.

    In any given town – there are “internal” jobs like municipal, schools, police, etc and then there can be “external” jobs which is a company that produces a product or service that is sold both within and outside that urban area. THe jobs associated with the stuff sold outside the area are “net” jobs.

    So if a place has “growth” of population the question is – are those folks who migrated TO that place and not just “growth” of the existing population base?

    There are a lot of factors that make it not easy to figure out if a small urban area is really “growing” – economically beyond organic population growth.

    My understanding is that they pay college professors a pretty penny to urber slice and dice data… for us ignorant cretins…….

  4. Fearless Lord Jim reports “The Staunton/Waynesboro labor market has the lowest unemployment rate of any in the state — 2.5%, according to August 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by the News Leader. Next lowest: Charlottesville and Winchester at 2.6%, Harrisonburg at 2.7%, and Roanoke at 2.8%.”

    With that said: 6 gigantic myths collapse in space of two sentences. And these towns, still on the bottom (For example drive through Stanton to understand that caveat), have no where to go but up and up, if they be given a fair chance. So key question is how to jump-start these towns unlocking their awesome power to go.

    My comments here do not include Charlottesville, a town I consider utterly hopeless under present management.

    • But always remember that:

      Jump starts require big views, acute judgement, integrity and deep wisdom, the absolute reverse of Fairfax Country where absurd growth and greed poisoned the golden egg.

  5. On the affordable college issue – why do we think it is Government’s responsibility to fix that? Same issue with “affordable housing”.

    I can see liberal types advocating that but what would Conservatives advocate for or what SHOULD they advocate for or do they say that the govt should not be involved in either?

    • “On the affordable college issue – why do we think it is Government’s responsibility to fix. Same issue with affordable housing.”

      Because incompetent government is main cause and culprit behind unaffordable education and also behind unaffordable housing.

      • sorry – the two problems are nation-wide… are we saying that all govt everywhere is incompetent.

        Can’t go there.. especially since govt is US! are WE “incompetent” at governance? that line of thinking seems pointless….

  6. interesting:

    Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot
    By EMILY BADGER and QUOCTRUNG BUI JUNE 18, 2019

    Townhomes, duplexes and apartments are effectively banned in many neighborhoods. Now some communities regret it.

    Residential land zoned for:
    detached single-family homes = pink
    other housing = green

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