Friday, January 27, 2023

Almost Half Of Hampton Roads Residents Say Economy Is Excellent Or Good

Old Dominion University recently released its annual survey detailing residents’ perceptions of life in the region, and it’s filled with interesting numbers.

Regarding the economy, the Social Science Research Center’s “Life in Hampton Roads” survey showed 23.7 percent of the 796 respondents had been either laid off, furloughed, or their hours were reduced because of the covid-19 pandemic, but 47.5 percent still rated the economic conditions as excellent or good.

“I guess they’re holding out hope, or hoping that there’s an end in sight for (the pandemic),” said Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, the director of the research center.

Just more than 41 percent said economic conditions were fair, and 8 percent said poor.

Last year, 48.2 percent said the economic conditions were excellent or good, 37.2 percent said fair, and 10.4 percent said poor. So overall, the results were a mixed bag.

Vandecar-Burdin said the number of residents who perceive the economy as excellent or good has been steadily decreasing since 2015, when it was 55 percent. It dropped to 45.3 percent in 2018 before increasing to 49.9 percent in 2019.

“In general, it’s been trending down each year,” she said.

Vandecar-Burdin thought the number of residents who lost their job or whose hours were reduced was interesting.

“I think that really shows you the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on people’s work life,” she said.

Another key question asked in the 12th annual survey was if people were better off, worse off or the same financially as the previous year.

Almost 36 percent (35.8) said they were better off, a decrease of 1.2 percent. But there was an increase of those who thought they were in the same financial condition, from 45.2 percent in 2020 to 48.3 percent in 2021. And 9.2 percent said they were worse off, as compared to 8.7 the previous year.

The survey also asked about barriers preventing people from returning to work full time, and 26 percent cited health and safety concerns relating to the coronavirus.

“Granted it was last summer and early fall, still people are concerned about going back to work given the pandemic conditions still exist,” Vandecar-Burdin said.

Almost 20 percent said family reasons prevented them from returning full time, but of those who cited more than one barrier, 42 percent said covid-19 was the main one. The survey also showed more than half were working solely away from home as compared to one-third in 2020. In 2020, almost 30 percent were working just from home, but it was 14 percent in 2021.

“We’re starting to see people going back to the workplace,” Vandecar-Burdin said. “The data is showing those shifts you would expect to see at this point in the pandemic. People are starting to go back to work, and go physically back to working outside of the home.”

The survey has been conducted differently the past two years because of the pandemic. It used to be done solely via phones, but in 2020 it switched to all online. Last year, it was a combination, but mostly online. Also, it used to be conducted from May through July, but was from July through October in 2021. Vandecar-Burdin said the goal for next year is to return to the original timeline and mostly by phone. The number of respondents in 2020 was 1,100, about 300 more than 2021.

While the full report, which also includes sections on the quality of life in Hampton Roads, education, health, politics, and policing, has been released, the center is also releasing a different section on a weekly basis to make it easier to understand and go through the 54-page report.

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