Virginia May Not Recover From Pandemic for Years, Report Says

Although the year is nearing a close, the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic turmoil are far from over. According to a recent report by Old Dominion University, the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Virginia will persist for years to come.

The State of the Commonwealth Report, which just one year ago predicted another year of growth for Virginia, is an annual look at the economy and future progress in the Old Dominion State. This year, the report focused heavily on the COVID-19 pandemic.

[MORE: COVID-19 Slams State Tax Revenues]

“The COVID-19 pandemic and associated social distancing measures wiped out nearly a decade of job gains in Virginia in two months,” the report notes. In February, the state had seen more than 500,000 jobs added since the Great Recession. But as of April, around 438,000 workers were permanently laid off or temporarily furloughed. Still, the summer months gave hope with gains in employment.

But Virginia’s economic health has mirrored its public health since then. According to the report, “as infections increased in Virginia and the nation in November, the percentage of businesses reducing the number of paid employees increased, eroding the gains made over the summer months.” As the year comes to an end, slowing job growth may point to a longer recovery for the state.

Virginia is likely not alone in facing a steep recovery. According to a report by the University of New Hampshire based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every state in the country is still below its February 2020 employment rate, while job growth has slowed over the past few months, reaching its lowest levels in November. In 32 states, net job loss is worse than what was seen in 2008.

The first two quarters of 2020 offered little confidence in a speedy recovery, as every state declined in gross domestic product, and all but four states had worse declines than during the 2008 recession, according to the UNH report. The third quarter did see GDP improvements, but they still remain below pre-pandemic levels.

As of November, the country had lost 10 million jobs, and most industries stand below where they were a year ago today in terms of employment. Among those hardest hit are the leisure and hospitality industries, especially in states like Hawaii, which has seen the largest loss in accommodation and food services jobs, at nearly 44%.

The government sector, both state and local, has also seen dramatic declines in employment across the country. Since February, the UNH report notes, state government employment has decreased by 6.6%, and local government employment by 6.8%, with a combined loss of 1.3 million jobs. Across the country, 39 states have lost more jobs in state government than during the Great Recession.

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