NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion University released its seventh annual State of the Commonwealth Report, a companion to the State of the Region, Monday morning.
The report, broken into six sections, discusses changes made in the region during 2021. According to Robert McNab, an economics professor at ODU's Strome College of Business, it also asks the question: "Where does Virginia go from here?"
"Our work seeks to contribute to this conversation without glossing over the challenges we face," McNab said. "We want to encourage the difficult conversations to help Virginia improve the outcomes for all its residents in the coming years."
The report suggests that Virginia is recovering well economically from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Commonwealth regaining jobs in 2021 despite some employers still scrambling to fill open positions. However, according to the report, the Hampton Roads area was hard-hit by the loss of tourism revenue caused by the pandemic, and small metros like Blacksburg and Winchester have been able to recover jobs more quickly than in Hampton Roads.
"The three largest metropolitan areas in the Commonwealth have struggled to regain all the jobs they lost during the pandemic," the report reads. "Richmond (-6.2%), Hampton Roads (-4.8%) and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (-3.7%) have all suffered significant job losses in the leisure and hospitality industry as well as education and health services."
"In the coming year, increases in defense spending are likely to drive economic growth in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Rebounds in domestic and international tourism will benefit these metro areas as well," the report adds.
Despite the job losses, Hampton Roads was mentioned as one of Virginia's most populated and economically active regions, and in 2021 the Hampton Roads market set records for hotel revenue while other markets continued to struggle.
With casinos opening soon in Norfolk and Portsmouth, the report also projects an increase in leisure and hospitality jobs in Hampton Roads, though it expects the economic output from the new casinos to be relatively small.
The full report covers COVID-19's impact on the state, the recovery speed of Virginia's metropolitan areas, how the pandemic affected tourism revenue, casinos in Virginia, the state's higher education institutions and the rapid growth of the Winchester metropolitan area.