PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The new year looked bright for Hampton Roads. Economists at Old Dominion University told 10 On Your Side that our region rang in 2020 projected to grow faster than the nation.
Then the coronavirus came, and by April, businesses were closing and jobs were cut.
“If you think about the Hampton Roads economy over a space of two months, over 80,000 people lost their jobs. That’s just historic and catastrophic,” said, Dr. Robert McNab.
McNab reports one in 10 workers used unemployment benefits. In August, data shows it got a bit better. Hampton Roads is now down 45,000 jobs versus pre-pandemic numbers.
Some, though, have simply stopped trying to get hired, McNab said.
“In many cases, two-income families are now one-income families and single-income families are under extraordinary financial and emotional stress.”
Women are the largest group to leave the workforce, he said, which may further widen the gender pay gap.
“What we’re going to see over the coming years is that women who have had to exit the labor force to take care of their children are going to be at a disadvantage in terms of promotion and career advancement.”
Black Americans are also suffering disproportionately from the pandemic. McNab reports the group makes up half of the continuing unemployment claims but only 31 percent of the area’s population.
“So, what we’ve had there is an economic and public health care shock that has exposed the fragilities and cracks in our system.”
The one bright spot, he points out, is the real estate.
It’s a tight market, meaning there are very few homes for sale and therefore they will cost more, but federal officials have said they will keep interest rates at near historic lows through 2023.
BELOW: Watch Monday’s full Coronavirus Digital Discussion.