The WaPo’s Derisive Spin on the Latest Unemployment Numbers

“Virginia Beach and the Shenandoah Valley might be prime destinations for vacationers this time of year, but those on a job hunt would be wise to head north on Interstate 95,” reports Washington Post reporter Elissa Silverman. “Northern Virginia accounted for 96.3 percent of the state’s job growth since last spring, according to new numbers from the Virginia Employment Commission.” (Am I being defensive, or do I detect a little big city disdain for the hinterlands here?)

According to Silverman, Northern Virginia accounted for “49,100 of 51,000 new jobs statewide in the year that ended in May.”

Everyone knows that economic growth in Northern Virginia is stronger than anywhere else in Virginia, but could it possibly be that lopsided? I checked the latest VEC press release, which covers employment growth between May 2004 and May 2005. These job growth numbers come straight from that report:

Harrisonburg: 2,600 new jobs, up 4.4 percent
Northern Virginia: 49,100 jobs, up 4.0 percent
Blacksburg/Christiansburg: 2,700 new jobs, up 4.0 percent
Richmond: 13,100 new jobs, up 2.2 percent
Roanoke: 2,900 new jobs, up 1.8 percent
Lynchburg: 1,600 new jobs, up 1.6 percent
Winchester: 900 new jobs, up 1.6 percent
Charlottesville: 1,000 new jobs, up 1.1 percent
Hampton Roads: 5,400 new jobs, up 0.7 percent
Danville: Unchanged

Clearly, NoVa dominates job creation in Virginia. But add up the numbers for metro areas in RoVa (Rest of Virginia) and you get job creation of 30,200. Given 49,100 new jobs in NoVa, 30,200 new jobs in RoVa metro areas, and a net job creation of 51,000 for the entire state, these numbers imply that non-metropolitan areas lost about 28,300 jobs.

It’s totally misleading to say that NoVa accounted for 96.3 percent of all job creation in the past year — a statement that implies that hardly any jobs were being created anywhere else in Virginia. Job creation was just as strong in Harrisonburg and Blacksburg as in mighty NoVa. In Richmond, Roanoke, Lynchburg and Winchester, job growth exceeded the national average of 1.5 percent. Memo to the Washington Post: Rural Virginia is hurting, but Virginia’s metro areas are holding their own.

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  1. Nice catch.

    The numbers that strike me there are Harrisonburg – what’s going on up there? Any ideas? JMU expand the campus or something?

  2. My friend just got a job up there in a new position. That’s 1. How about the other 2599?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Which numbers are correct? According to the WAPO report only 1900 jobs were created outside of NOVA. The figures you show from the VEC certainly seem to disagree. Is this “new math” or has NOVA grown quite a bit geographically?

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I can almost guarantee this is what happened: The reporter read the VEC press release that mentioned that 51,000 new jobs were created. She scrolled down the page to see that NoVa created 49,100 jobs. That’s 96.3 percent. Not bothering to investigate the numbers any more closely than that, she wrote her snide little lead. The copy editor saw nothing remarkable about the numbers and let it pass.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Paul, Yes, Harrisonburg is hopping! James Madison has a lot to do with it. Plus the region has enjoyed a couple of large manufacturing expansions recently. Futhermore, you have an influx of Washington-area refugees who like the sophisticated but small town atmosphere, many of who start new businesses and create new jobs.

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Grrrr. Silverman’s misinformation is spreading rapidly through Northern Virginia. The Fairfax County e-bird, published by the Fairfax County Economic Develoment Authority, picked up her story.

    Said the e-bird: “How much does good ol’ northern Virginia contribute to the state economy? Hmmm, here’s one measure. According to Virginia Employment Commission figs reported by WashPost scribe Elissa Silverman this morning, northern Virginia accounted for a mere 96.3 percent (49,100 of 51,000) jobs created in Our Fair Commonwealth since last spring.”

  7. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    The numbers probably do not also reflect the enormous number of sole proprietor businesses that are being formed in Virginia every day. These business form at about a 40% NVA, 60% rest of Virginia rate based on my experience.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Harrisonburg’s housing market can’t keep up with demand. Surely not all of those people are commuting to NOVA for work.

  9. GOPHokie Avatar

    Housing is very, very strong is the surrounding areas of Hburg too. The problem is that alot of the home sales are to retirees who have moved from NOVA. With all these new people you need more services so thats what is driving the growth for the most part. Also people are opening alot of small businesses.

  10. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Sounds like the candidates for Governor need to look into creating functinal human settlement patterns and Balanced Communities Commonwealth-wide.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    That tax increase really cramped the economy, didn’t it? Just crushed it like a leaf. Hah. (Yes, before you get going, Laffer was right, but the big federal tax cuts created some opportunity for a state to minor increases without totally countering the good results.)

  12. Steven Avatar

    Harrisonburg and the surrounding area is growing leaps and bounds — with JMU being the driver in the ‘burg. I believe JMU is the largest employer in the Central Shenandoah Valley.

    Today, the DN-R reported JMU will increase enrollment by 9.5-percent over the next eight years. JMU is devouring the city — and purchasing city property and vacant buildings.

    Locally, there’s been some layoffs at Merck and a few smaller manufacturing plants, but Coors is building a full-scale brewery due for completion in 2007 and Walmart Inc. is in the process of building a major distribution center along I-81.

    The ‘rumor mill’ says Cabela’s is also planning to build a big-box hunting & fishing store and Toyota has plans for a small truck manufacturing plant in Augusta County. I’ve heard talk of a Shenandoah Valley Civil War center along I-81 as well.

    The job market is tight because unemployment numbers are extremely low and the real estate market is on fire…

    ~ the blue dog

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Is the Wally World distribution center that giagantic building on the left of I-81 as you head south of Harrisonburg? You know, the one with about 10,000 truck docks along it’s I-81 face?

  14. Ben Kyber Avatar
    Ben Kyber

    JMU is devouring the city? Wow, I hope it doesnt get as bad as VCU is in Richmond. So many stores along Broad Street have been bought out and demolished to build VCU buildings.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Yes the Wal-Distribution Building literally almost stretches from Mt. Crawford Exit to Harrisonburg.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    That’s a fantasically huge building. I’ve seen Wal-Mart distribution in other places, and none of them were that big… love to get in there with a go-kart before they stock it.

  17. subpatre Avatar

    I can’t tell whether functinal human settlement [sic] means internment/work camps, or is just a pie-in-the-sky indictment of whatever someone doesn’t like. Based on this and past posts [and others’ comments], if you want to be taken seriously you’ll give examples of what needs to be done in the circumstances given.

    The northern Valley is under assault from urban refugees. Fueled by a booming economy [proof’s in the market] and low interest rates, people are flooding from PW and Loudoun into Frederick, Shanandoah, and Rockingham. The former NOVA retirees that moved to the Valley are now displaced by middle-class families, who then commute to their jobs… in Loudoun and PW.

    NOVA is creeping outward, a rising tide that’s pushing the less tax-productive uses outward. Moderately priced single family housing is a non-starter in NOVA, and the expanding periphery is taking the brunt of the expansion. The perimeter is enabling the center –as always.

    I have my own ideas about what ‘functional’ zoning entails, using the Ahwahnee Principles (“smart growth” to most of you) as a rough guide. Though the principals aren’t perfect, they clearly identify many of the goals that would make communities function culturally, environmentally, economically and socially.

    Getting from here –the rapidly NOVA-izing northern Valley and it’s ancient zoning approaches– to there is the challenge. It’s a challenge that nobody’s articulated yet. Certainly a statewide one-size-fits-all approach is ludicrous.

  18. Woah woah…as a Richmond native, I’d like to say that VCU has turned that crappy part of town around.

    As long as they can refrain from burning down dorms, everything will be fine.

  19. Steve:

    I just found out a couple of years ago that Coors makes Killians. Kudos to Coors. That’s a damn fine beer.

  20. Ben Kyber Avatar
    Ben Kyber

    That “crappy part of town” was a hotspot for black commerce 50 years ago. Now the few unique little shops that remain are in danger of being gobbled up by the college. I’ll agree that it LOOKS better though.

  21. I disagree. I think it was mostly a run down hell hole with murder, crime, and the like.

    I don’t think there’s any logical reason why ghettos in urban areas must be preserved. I don’t agree with demolition in most cases and as a preservationist, I tend towards renovation. But this idea that urban cores need to be places for poverty is as backwards as it comes…

  22. Ben Kyber Avatar
    Ben Kyber

    Just like any other historic area, Jackson Ward should have its landmarks and character preserved.

  23. Ben Kyber Avatar
    Ben Kyber

    Time for yet another blog plug:

  24. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Please, BlueInTheCommonwealth, stop clogging up everyone’s comment section with plugs for your blog. Do us a favor–write a thoughtful post about something you’re passionate about (something besides just trashing Republicans). Email it to some bloggers and ask them for a link or a comment. That’s the way to fire up a blog.

    You’re a young, smart guy who’s interested in politics and willing to wade into the fray. You shouldn’t need to beg.

  25. Salt Lick Avatar
    Salt Lick

    Something is odd about the number for Blacksburg/Christiansburg. Could my area really have produced almost as many jobs as Roanoke, and a thousand more than Lynchburg? I can’t imagine what sector those jobs would be in, other than construction, and most of those jobs appear to be done by Hispanics.

  26. Ha. You’re balsy Salt Lick.

    But I really wondered about the Charlottesville numbers…they’ve really slowed down there. But the unemployment rate is still ridiculously low.

  27. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I thought subpatre was on a roll, as usual, until he got to that Awahnee stuff. I’m sorry, I just don’t see how it can work unless you are willing to accept the economics of a foot based economy.

  28. Steven Avatar

    OK, tonight I’m with a few friends… and the subject of growth in the area comes up.

    A buddy says, “Did you hear ‘Six Flags’ is going to buy property on 33 east across from the Massanutten Peak — and ski resort?”

    ~ the blue dog

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim, Thank you for firing the blue dog from regular blogging and restoring honesty and integrity to your blog

  30. Ben Kyber Avatar
    Ben Kyber

    Sorry, just trying to get the word out. I’m not begging anyone to do anything, I saw a lack of balance in VA blogs and i tried to counteract it. I guess i just don’t have nearly as much of an audience “trashing Republicans” (which is by no means the intent of my blog) as you people do trashing Democrats.

  31. Not Guy Incognito Avatar
    Not Guy Incognito

    Hey Blue, I trash both sides equally. Try it sometime, it’s quite liberating! And there’s so much fertile ground there!

    As for the unemployment numbers, I’m amazed by the arrogance you find in NOVA. Yes, there are amazing things going on there in job creation, that can not be denied. But there is also an amazing drain on resources up there, and so much more needs to be done (i.e. transportation). The jobs they create are good, but that area needs a whole lot more urban planning, or needed it 20 years ago. I just hope they can find some quick fixes to some long-running problems.

  32. reactionjackson Avatar

    The sad thing is Danville. As a Roanoker, I keep reading about the state’s efforts to bolster and promote that area, yet it doesn’t seem to take yet.

    Maybe the area is destined to stay fallow until I-73 is built, in the next century of course.

  33. subpatre Avatar

    Sorry Ray. First is that I don’t adhere to them verbatim; I regard the Ahwahnee Principles as a list of considerations, especially urban (town and city) design. They’re an accurate description of [most of the] failures in centralized zoning.

    The underlying premise was that natural growth –ie. ‘random’ building construction in thousands of towns and cities– has remained functional for hundreds of years, yet areas designed by ‘professionals’ often degenerate with a few years. Not always true, but too true to be ignored.

    You’ve also mis-read the Principles if you think it’s “… a foot based economy.” [your quote]. The idea is to minimize unecessary additional traffic, a laudable and practical idea.

    Of course the whole principle of socio-economic principles breaks down when it’s codified and administered centrally without regard to existing patterns and culture! As an advisor tells me, “We don’t always know what will work, but we do know what doesn’t”. He’s just paraphrasing the doctor’s advice on HeeHaw, but it’s still valid.

    There is disfunction in NOVA’s continuing drain on the state’s resources (hat tip to Not Guy Incognito); it exists and grows at the expense of others. It’s truly an economic asset, but it can’t be ignored that its workers don’t live there and it’s dense network of transportation is abused. NOVA depends on exploiting peripheral areas.

    Perhaps too simplistic, but in my view most of NOVA is a city [legal term], not just an urban area, and it needs to assume the reponsibilities of a city: housing, transportation, etc. Similarly, non-urban areas need to recognize the drain caused by ‘bedroom communities’ and demand proffers and/or taxes that pay for the actual costs of increased services and infrastructure. Perhaps proportional state revenue transfers could [partly] address the inbalance.

  34. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    Gotta love the community leaders who spend millions of tax dollars recruiting, coveting, begging, pining, wishing for jobs and economic development (and tax-subsidized competition) and turn out like tricked out hookers for the ‘announcements’ and ribbon cuttings on the one hand, and slap proffer shakedowns on the home builders and developers, collectively chant “Deliver me from congestion!” and pursue growth control legislation with the other.

  35. subpatre Avatar

    Not sure that I entirely disagree with Mr. Day’s criticisms, but the solutions and remedies presented are so …. so Democratic? Absent, vacant, missing, nonexistent, omitted, invisible.

    As the time-tested saying goes, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.

  36. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    The solution, Subpar, is to recognize that increased economic opportunity (‘jobs’ to you, Subpar) and conjestion are the two ends to the same correletive equation. Because this equation is correletive, you can, by policy, “control” only one end of it. The other end adjusts automatically. A local government can choose which end of this equation it wants to control–but it cannot control both.

  37. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    RESPONSE TO “subparte”

    Thank you for pointing out the misspelling of “functional.” I have a physical limitation that makes it difficult to detect errors is short posts that are not created in a full-service word processing program. I appreciate your kindness in pointing it out.

    To clarify the point you were unclear about, the threshold test of functional human settlement patterns is “access and mobility.” (“Transport is the canary in the minefield of dysfunctional human settlement patterns.”)

    The Shelter Crisis – lack of affordable and accessible housing – is moving up as a second litmus test. See our next column on the topic at This test will join air and water quality, support for economic competitiveness, water supply, land conservation and many others including Aristotle’s: places that make citizens happy and safe. (Safe is becoming more and more an issue as you will note.)

    Of course the ultimate test of functional human settlement patterns is sustainability of a civilized, urban society. This is a much more complex criteria. We have so far to go to secure access and mobility or affordable and accessible housing that it is clear we cannot get to sustainable human settlement patterns from where we are now.

    That brings us to the Ahwahnee Principles (APs) which you site. You will be pleased to know those principles articulated by the California Local Government Commission in 1991 are one of 11 such examples of overarching principle statements cited in the evolution of our “Principles For sustainability in the New Urban Region’ (Chapter 23 Box 7 of The Shape of the Future.)

    I agree APs are very useful. They are incorporated in what we define as “functional human settlement patterns.” We do not believe the APs are synonymous with “smart growth” as you condescendingly suggested to readers of Bacons Rebellion Blog. Also, they relate to comprehensive planning, not “zoning.”

    In the future when you have a question about one of the words or phrases in our posts, you might do a search of the Bacons Rebellion Web site for the term.

    I would like to know if you have any good data on the migration you describe. The 2000 Census for Shenandoah (not “Shanandoah” as you spell it) County confirms some of what you suggest as we note in our columns “Regional Rigor Mortis,” and “Take Me Home Congested, Non Urban Road.”

    Since you were kind enough to offer unsolicited advice on how we might “be taken seriously,” I will offer some for you:

    Stop assuming you know more than you do.

    Develop a more articulate vocabulary – “urban refugees” suggests that when they move to dysfunctional locations, citizens escape “urban.”

    Overcome Geographic Illiteracy – just where do you think “NOVA” is? We have a column on the topic and a backgrounder on Geographic Illiteracy.

    Learn that “a state-wide one-size fits all approach” is not “ludicrous” but imperative and possible if ones vision and understanding are up to the task.

    Drop the silly handle. You obviously have given thought to these important issues and anonymity does not add to your ability to make a useful contribution to create functional human settlement pattern.

    Keep up the good work. Abandon the rest, no one can do it all.


  38. subpatre Avatar

    Barnie, your simplistic jobs equals gridlock is too simple; it simply isn’t true. The failure of past leaders to address this is a shame, and the results are scattered across the Commonwealth.

    I (and most others) realize there’s no perfect solutions, but the refusal to try, to even consider, addressing the balances –or imbalances– of transportation, growth, economics, and housing is a disgrace.

    That one particular party seems wedded to maintaining the status quo, “the mess we’re in”, is a disappointment. Defending that position by claiming that correlation is causation is a measure of the platform’s inadequacy and irrelevance.

  39. subpatre Avatar

    EMR, I understand that “access and mobility …. lack of affordable and accessible housing, air and water quality, …. economic competitiveness, water supply, land conservation and many others….” [emphasis mine] can contribute to the “sustainability of a civilized, urban society“. Many of the terms are vague, especially the sustainability of anything –like society– that’s always changing.

    What I doubt is the method [see the original question: “.. examples of what needs to be done…“]. Particularly when the solution is so farfetched it’s “clear we cannot get to sustainable human settlement patterns from where we are now“. It’s troubling this extreme must be implemented by an dictated state-wide one-size-fits-all approach that’s only possible “if ones vision and understanding are up to the task

    Hoped for examples (illustrations, models, or patterns; even suggestions, designs, or proposals) for improvement turned into partisan potshots and murky meanderings. Where’s an example of some sustainable human settlement patterns? What will improve the the balance of jobs-to-population in my Valley?

    The term ‘smart growth’ was allegedly [verbal communication] first used by MD Gov. Glendenning instead of repeating pronouncing “Ahwahnee Principles” or using “New Urbanism”. There’s a bit of evidence, PDF page 5, the info is true. If not, still close enough for government work.

    Also, trying to separate planning from zoning is the same as separating a building’s architecture from its construction. In terms of politics, public policy or development they’re two sides of a single coin.

    Both data and observation shows the shift in Valley settlement from Fairfax/DC retirees toward PW/Loudoun working age. If you’re not familiar with Virginia statistics, UVA’s W Cooper Center goes much farther than the US Census. Typing Shanandoah won’t get you computer hits; it’s a older spelling still used by Shenandoah County.

    Urban refugees are those who’ve soiled their nest and flee to a [perceived] cleaner environment, only to repeat the soiling. The pattern is the same as prehistoric slash-and-burn cultures. [Interesting -and OT- ideas about nomadism or fad and fashion’s relationship to survival characteristics]

    The term NOVA (left menu) is preferable to ‘MetroPlex’ and other, far less complimentary terms.

    The paranym ‘subpatre’ is a descriptor like Miller, Smith, or Risse originally were. The name predates the blog and meets the blog owners’ request for consistency. Please focus on content.

  40. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    FURTHER RESPONSE TO “subparte”

    Request for “examples”:

    We have a 40 year body of work that includes the largest regional land use control system in the United States, many other regulations and plans that were adopted across the country, plus villages, neighborhoods, clusters and dooryards we planned, supervised construction and managed where 50,000 plus people now live/work/play. We have described the lessons learned in two (soon to be three) books, countless articles and now 61 columns at

    Including a summary of relevant elements of this body of work in every Blog post is not possible due to the complexity of the interrelationships that characterize human settlement patterns. We do try to tie this experience in with our columns. In the blog posts, we try to cite columns where one can explore our ideas. You could find the answers you say you seek with a little effort. A place to start on the topics you mention is “The Shape of Richmond’s Future,” (16 February 2004) and the three part series “Wild Abandonment,” “Scatteration” and “The Myths That Blind Us” that ran from 8 Sept through 20 October 2003.

    “Smart Growth/New Urbanism/Ahwahnee Principles”

    With all due respect to the author(s) of the Eau Clair, Wisc. plan, these are fundamentally different things.


    You are right sustainability is complex. We devote a chapter of The Shape of the Future to the topic (the one that cites the Ahwahnee Principles). We have come to the conclusion you deride and dismiss. We reread that chapter and the conclusion recently in the course of drafting a paper to be presented this fall at a sustainability conference in Texas and found it still very much on point as we will note in a future column.

    “Partisan Potshots and murky meanderings”:

    You must be the supporter of some “partisan” that we singled out for exploration at some point. We have never belonged to or advocated the platform of any political party or group. Our work seems to be “murky” only to those who have rigid preconceived notions on the topics explored.

    “Planning and zoning”:

    “Two sides of the same coin” or two facets of the same n faceted subject? Either way, they are still two different things and need to be treated as such in any useful discussion for the simple fact that many get them confused as is evident at any municipal land use control hearing.

    “Weldon Cooper Data”:

    I am familiar with John Thomas’ shop and many of his staff as well as the work of the center which we cite from time to time. Perhaps you could provide a specific reference to document your statements?

    “Urban Refugees”:

    I tend to agree with your description of those moving out but the term “refugee” suggests that they have left someplace (urban) and are now somewhere else.


    A reference to the dictionary of error with respect to Geographic Illiteracy (The Washington Post) is not a useful guide to NOVA.


    When I was a young person I had a lot of handles that served many purposes. When you have something worth saying it is best to let people know who you are. If you want Barnie to call you “Subpar” that is your choice under the rules of this Blog.

    I, and I have been told by others that they, discount anything posted by a handle as the view of someone who has something to hide. It often seems to indicate that if the identity were known it would discount the value of the comment – as in trying to spin partisan tidbits by pretending to be a sage, non-partisan observer. Anonymous posting are also used by those who disagree with the position of their employer. This can be solved by working for and with those with whom one shares perspectives or at least with those who are open minded.

    Noting the time of the posting, perhaps you will feel better when you get some sleep.


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