Virginia’s Big Metros Lagged in 2012 Job Creation


by James A. Bacon

Has Virginia already felt the impact of the slowdown in federal spending? That would seem to be the obvious conclusion from 2012 metropolitan-area job data released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and highlighted by Aaron M. Renn on the New Geography blog.

After years and years of growing more rapidly than the United States economy, the Washington metropolitan area scored 10th from bottom among the nation’s 51 largest regions in 2012. The number of jobs increased by 32,200, a 1.07% increase for the year.

Hampton Roads, did even worse, scoring 7th from bottom — putting it in the same company as rust-belt basket cases like St. Louis, Rochester, Providence, Buffalo and Philadelphia. The metro area created only 6,100 jobs, an increase of 0.83%. Like the Washington region, Hampton Roads is heavily dependent upon military spending. The difference is, it lacks the dynamic technology sector that, one might hope, can take up the slack.

The Richmond region scored in the muddled middle, creating 12,500 jobs, for a 0.83% increase. The virtue of Richmond’s economy is that it is diversified. The downside of Richmond’s economy is that it lacks a star industry cluster to lead job growth.

Bacon’s bottom line: Two key points:

First: These job numbers reinforce the fears that I have expressed repeatedly that job and population growth in Northern Virginia is veering from trend lines and that long-term forecasts that form the basis of future transportation demand are, at best, highly speculative, and at worst, terribly flawed.

Second: How much more data do we need to be persuaded that Virginia is losing its economic mojo? Yes, I’m delighted that Richmond’s Hamilton Beach Brands will be shipping small appliances to China, that WhiteWave Foods Company is investing $70 million to expand operations in Rockingham County, and that Orbital Sciences Corporation has successfully launched its new Antares rocket from Wallop’s Island, to mention three bits of good news from the past week. But that’s anecdotal froth upon the economic wave. The underlying numbers are grim.

Virginia is pursuing economic development pretty much the same way it did in 1986 when I first started covering the subject for Virginia Business magazine. Our economic development professionals have gotten smarter, more sophisticated and more tech savvy but they’re still doing essentially the same thing they always have — recruiting corporate investment, marketing to tourists and promoting sales of agricultural products.

Every gubernatorial administration is required by law to update the state’s strategic economic development plan. Every administration consults the same “stakeholders” (vested interests), and every plan comes out looking largely the same as the one before. It’s time to wake up, people!

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


12 responses to “Virginia’s Big Metros Lagged in 2012 Job Creation”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    Several points:

    1. Given that employment in Washington, DC didn’t dip as much as the national average may partially explain why it isn’t rebounding as much in the recovery.

    2. The defense slowdown was being factored into business plans as early as 2011. Any tour of commercial office space in Northern Virginia provided a high percentage of vacant offices with SCIFs. The defense contractors have been downsizing for some time.

    3. Economic development in Virginia is a bit of a joke. I have directly worked with economic development projects in MA, FL and MD. Virginia can’t hold a candle to any of these states.

    4. Savvy technology companies are “testing the water” for ex-defense contractors in NoVa. Amazon Web Services is one. They have been leasing space in Herndon since 2010 and are reportedly looking for far more now. Note: this is the internet divisions of Amazon – Amazon Web Services, not the retail division. AWS already has a very large data center in NoVa. It seems they are now hiring developers in NoVa as well.

  2. I think it’s pretty safe to say that as long as Washington is the Capital of the US and where most Cabinet level agencies have located their HQs that even if and when they “cut”, that the govt will still be spending and a good about of it will still come to DC/MD/VA.

    What I think Va economic development folks should do is find out for each new company that did not locate in Va – why – and let that be used as a plan for what we should do in the future to attract our share of non-govt economic development.

    what are our deficits?

  3. Darrell Avatar

    I told you years ago that Virginia was turning into rust belt Cleveland. Did you listen? NOOOO!

    Economic Developers have pretty toys and old habits. Really? Kinda like old geezers with an I-phone? The I-tech does all these wonderful things, but the only thing the geezers can do is make a phone call. Which is what the ED types do. Many years ago Calif. had big problems with energy. Did Virginia do like Texas, NC, and Florida did and send their recruiters down range to actively steal businesses? No, the tired assinaseat geezers mailed business owners a bunch of overpriced colored brochures that highlighted call centers, or light industrial that had long ago moved to Mexico during NAFTA.

    The ED’s in Virginia are government bureaucrats from the same cloth as the ones in Cleveland, with no imagination and tons of recycled lame ideas that have repeatedly been proven not to work.

    Well here’s an idea. GET RID OF THE RETIRED IN PLACE and hire some entrepreneurs. Hell, hire my nephew. Tasked with rehabbing an ancient multimillion dollar remote alert system for hydro-electric dam breaks, he replaced the whole system for 50 grand and a dam long piece of wire that carried a digital signal to an internet PC/phone app. The wire breaks, signal goes away, the phone rings, and a little automated voice says “RUN!”

    Add the right aux sensors and it will also tell you water height, turbine speed, or how many salmon swim up the fish ladder.

    Now I gotta tell ya, he doesn’t work cheap and he’s really busy running around the world fixing stuff. But I think he would be ideal for injecting common sense into an outdated process. I bet he could even do it remotely, which is exactly where he should be.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      “The ED’s in Virginia are government bureaucrats from the same cloth as the ones in Cleveland, with no imagination and tons of recycled lame ideas that have repeatedly been proven not to work.”.


  4. DANG! Darrell.. !!!! maybe we can get him to develop a pressure cooker detector, eh?

  5. Darrell Avatar

    Just add pressure cookers to the assault weapon ban. That would take care of it. Maybe if the Feds quit reading everyone’s e-mail and started actually checking out people who visit AQ sites, we wouldn’t have to worry about who is brewing up what.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      For the last year that data was collected (2010 I believe) – more people were killed with hammers than so-called assault weapons.

      As always, the Democrats over-played the proposed legislation.

      Universal background checks and (maybe) restricting magazines to 20 rounds would have been reasonably good ideas. Instead, we have the Democratic leadership trying to push everything but the kitchen sink into the proposed legislation. #FAIL.

  6. what’s an AQ site? and are you suggesting that the Feds stop reading emails but start snooping on who is visiting which web sites?


    for the record, I AGREE that trying to define what an assault weapon is – from the get go a #FAIL, but you know, we had absolutely no such problem in prior legislation in defining what an automatic weapon or a stinger missile or a bazooka are – in terms of whether they are permitted to be purchased or not.

    I saw a commercial yesterday. It showed a guy walking into his former workplace with a rifle. He found his boss, fired ..a big puff of smoke – and missed… and proceeded to re-load his ….single-shot musket.

    the point made that did our Founding Fathers mean what we have now days when they said “arms”?

    I think we’ve all taken stupid pills on this issue.

    If the founding fathers were here today listening to the debate about the “right” to own the weapons that now exist – they’d likely say – to the man – ” are you people NUTS”?

    people can actually own automatic weapons. Do you know what THAT background check looks like? Do you think it’s possible for one guy to sell an automatic weapon to his close friend without the Feds involved?

    if stinger missiles are outlawed – only outlaws will have stinger missiles!!

    “I’ll give you my 50cal machine gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands”

  7. Darrell Avatar

    Well you look at this the wrong way. Back in colonial times assault weapons were crew served weapons. Each man on the line readied his individual single shot rifle, leveled it at the enemy line, and on command they all pulled their triggers. Sending hundreds of lead balls zinging in formation at the opposing force. Such was the technology through the Civil War that routinely killed thousands in a single day and inspired ‘rules of war’.

    Technology allowed a work force reduction in the number of people required on a battle field. What didn’t immediately change was the tactical assault methods, which resulted in needless casualties. Today, a modern marine and his rifle is the deadliest weapon in the world. — Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. A soldier is An Army of One able to singly take out an objective. But in 1700 America, the Whole Army was a weapon of mass destruction capable of killing only through a well regulated manner.

    1. re: “crew”-enabled mass killings…vs individual-enable mass killings vs a modern Marine killing machine.

      well take a deranged individual and equip him like that Marine and what do you get?

      At least the Marine is, in theory, disciplined to shoot only when ordered to by appropriate command whereas the non-Marine is directed by his Tin Foil hat.

  8. Darrell Avatar

    AQ is Al Qaida. There are tons of these types of sites out in the web. Most are in Arabic, but some are in English. Don’t you think it might be wise for the Feds to see who learns new ways of using pressure cookers from such a site?

    1. do I want some dudley doright dweeb deep in the bowels of some DOD office building going through my emails and web history looking for references to pressure cooker bombs – (like I’m writing “pressure cooker bombs” right now) ??????

      really? you think so ?

Leave a Reply