Southern Virginia is fortunate to have an ample workforce as the labor pool for industries pulls from a wide area, reaching into North Carolina. Commuting patterns show workers travel on average 20 to 30 miles to work, utilizing several major highways. This labor force includes over 600,000 working-age adults, according to the 2010 Census.
Numerous textile manufacturers built businesses in Southern Virginia Post-World War II, benefiting from readily available labor exiting the farms. As the textile sector grew, the area’s economy developed a dependence upon this industry. With the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the region experienced a severe economic blow and thousands of jobs were lost. Between 1999 and 2012, the available labor force shrunk by nearly 5,600 workers. Over that time, approximately 4,000 jobs were lost; of these approximately 1,600 were in the textile/apparel sector, presenting a challenge to the economic stability of the region. Since 2009, job losses have reduced and been somewhat mitigated by 2,000 new jobs in a variety of employment sectors.
An assessment of the labor market shows very healthy Education and Health Services sectors, both of which exceeded the State average. Manufacturing, Construction, Utilities, and Mining sectors are also at or above average. The PDC’s employment percentage exceeded the state’s in Agriculture, Utilities, Manufacturing, Transportation/Warehousing, Educational Services, and Healthcare/Social Assistance. The region remains on par with Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation, Accommodation & Food Services, Public Administration, and Other Services.
The Financial & Management Services sectors pose the most significant challenges which reinforce the need for a strong secondary and post-secondary educational system throughout the region. This sector includes Information, Finance & Insurance, Real Estate & Rentals & Leasing, Professional & Technical Services, Management of Companies & Enterprises, and Administrative & Waste Services. Of these classifications, the region is most competitive with Waste Services and has the widest gap (9%) in the Professional & Technical Services sector.