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ODU Economists Forecast Slow and Steady Growth for Hampton Roads VA in 2012

Old Dominion University’s Economic Forecasting Team is forecasting economic growth in Hampton Roads to be slower than the national average in 2012.

The team, composed of  Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics, Mohammad Najand, professor of finance, and Gary Wagner, professor of economics, presented its annual report Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.

The annual report, which is widely respected as an accurate harbinger of the year ahead for the region, forecasts regional economic growth of 1.97 percent, compared with national real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 2.4 percent.

The team’s 2012 forecasts are for the HAMPTON ROADS MSA which includes: Currituck County, Gloucester County, Isle of Wight County, James City County, Mathews County, York County, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Surry County, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

Real Gross Regional Product (+1.97%)

The Hampton Roads MSA is expected to experience more rapid economic growth in 2012 than the region experienced in 2011. However, we anticipate that regional growth in 2012 will be slower than our historical annual average of 3.2 percent and slower than that of the nation.

Here are a few highlights for the region….

Employment 

Annual civilian employment is expected to increase by about 6,600 jobs during 2012. Employment growth is likely to be concentrated in firms providing professional and business services, education, leisure and hospitality, and health care services.

The Hampton Roads economy created about 44,700 net new jobs during the period from 2001 to 2007, which is about 7,500 net new jobs annually. From 2007 to 2011, the recession and its aftermath have been responsible for the loss of an estimated total of 44,000 civilian jobs in Hampton Roads. Despite an increase in Real Gross Regional Product (GRP) in 2011, on a year-over-year comparative basis the region’s economy lost about 2,200 jobs in 2011. As a result, the annual mean level of civilian employment in Hampton Roads in 2012 is expected to approach the level of employment in 2003, or about 738,000 jobs.

The region’s unemployment rate is expected to fall from 7 percent in 2011 to 6.2 percent in 2012.

Retail Sales (Taxable Sales +3.8 percent)

Taxable sales include all retail sales except new automobile registrations. Compared to the pre-recession peak in 2007, retail sales in Hampton Roads fell by 8.6 percent during 2009 and continued to decline slightly, -0.2 percent, during 2010.

However, retail sales began to generally recover in January 2011. For the year as a whole, these sales increased by 3.3 percent compared to 2010 levels. In 2012, retail sales in the region are expected to grow at a 3.8 percent clip over the levels observed in 2011.

Tourism

The recession has had a particularly negative effect on travel and tourism nationwide as businesses attempted to control costs and households adjusted to a significantly tighter credit market by curtailing travel. Hampton Roads’ tourism industry also experienced tough years in 2008 and 2009. For instance, hotel revenue in Hampton Roads was 9.2 percent lower in 2009 compared to pre-recession revenue in 2007. The recovery has been slow with revenue growing 0.5 percent in 2010 and 1.9 percent in 2011. The hotel industry in the Williamsburg market continues to have serious problems in attracting tourists.

We anticipate a better year for the Hampton Roads tourism industry than that experienced in 2011. Positive growth in the national economy, particularly in Hampton Roads’ main tourist market states, will contribute to higher tourism revenue.

Housing (Value of Single-Family Housing Permits -11.5%)

The residential construction industry in Hampton Roads is expected to continue to decline in 2012. The number of housing permits issued for 1-unit residential homes during the first six months in 2011 decreased by 9.3 percent compared to the first six months in 2010, and the value of these permits decreased by 8.3 percent. This decline was expected as we observed substantial growth in 2010 primarily due to the tax credit offered to both new and existing home buyers. This tax credit was available to buyers who signed a contract by the end of April 2010 and who completed their transaction by June 30, 2010. The decline in both numbers and the value of permits continued through the remainder of the year due to existing imbalance between supply of and demand for residential housing in Hampton Roads.

The Hampton Roads housing market in 2011 continues to be in the process of a wrenching adjustment that features falling prices and homeowner’s equity, rising foreclosures and excessive housing inventory. Although mortgage interest rates are at their lowest levels in 50 years and household income in the region is recovering, the lack of substantial employment growth, relatively tight home loan requirements, and large number of foreclosures will likely depress prices in the Hampton Roads residential real estate market at least through the first six months of 2012. Fortunately, the region’s unsold inventory of houses has continued to decline for almost every month in 2011. Measures of supply and demand indicate that, while excess supply still exists in the local housing market, it will take approximately seven months to clear the existing inventory based on the current absorption rate. The normal time period to clear the existing inventory is five to six months.

30-Year Conventional Mortgage Rate (Year Avg. 3.8 percent)

Long-term mortgage rates will follow and be affected by many of the same market factors as those influencing the 10-year T-Note rate.

For information about the Economic Forecasting Team and its projects, see http://bpa.odu.edu/forecasting/.

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