Report: Virus Unwinds Many of Hampton Roads’ Economic Gains

By Associated Press

October 7, 2020

ODU’s annual report outlines the damage done to the region by COVID-19

NORFOLK — COVID-19 set Hampton Roads’ economy back a decade. Old Dominion University’s annual State of the Region report also highlighted racial issues brought up by the virus. Black people have been more likely to be infected or lose their jobs during the virus-related recession.

Released by the Strome College of Business, the report paints a rosy picture in early 2020. At the time, Hampton Roads was projected to grow faster than the nation and had more unfilled jobs than unemployed workers. Boosts in defense spending “brightened” the future of a region that’s home to military bases.

Then the pandemic hit. In April, nearly 77,000 workers in Hampton Roads filed an initial unemployment claim. That’s more than seven times the number at the peak month of the Great Recession. The pandemic struck a particularly painful blow to the tourism and hospitality industries.

Black workers were also more likely to work in industries that have borne the brunt of the crisis, including hotels and retail stores.

The report cited U.S. Census data showing that Hampton Roads is 30% Black. But information from the Virginia Department of Health shows that Black residents accounted for approximately half of all COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations through July.

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