Early October is when Old Dominion University economists present the annual State of the Region Report, a detailed look at Hampton Roads that focuses on economic data and other indicators of life in the region.

Given everything that has happened in 2020, especially the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, report editor Robert M. McNab suggested this year's report could be more of a page-turner than in other years.

"While the term 'historic' is often used for events that, in retrospect, appear to be neither historic or consequential, the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly reverberate for years to come," said McNab, professor of economics and director of ODU's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy.

The annual report, hosted by LEAD Hampton Roads and the Hampton Roads Chamber, will be presented at a luncheon on Oct. 6 at the Norfolk Marriott Waterside and with an option for virtual attendance via Zoom. Unfortunately, for this and every other region in the United States - and indeed around the world - the economic news that will be presented is dismal.

"The job gains in Hampton Roads over the last decade disappeared in three months. Businesses struggled to adapt to an ever-changing 'new normal' of masking, temperature taking, and remote work," McNab said.

The toll has transcended economics, as evidenced by the pressure on food banks and mental-health services. In addition, McNab said, the report examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately harmed African American residents of Hampton Roads.

This year's report is divided into six chapters:

A Shock to the System: COVID-19 and Hampton Roads

COVID-19 changed views of the Hampton Roads economy. In January, the region was projected to grow faster than the nation, there were more unfilled jobs than unemployed workers and boosts in defense spending brightened our economic future. By April, however, businesses were closing, jobs were being lost and residents were under a stay-at-home order. The economic toll of the pandemic will be spelled out, and prospects examined for the coming year.

The Way We Were: 2010-2019

The challenges of the last decade seem almost trivial compared to COVID-19. Yet, those challenges hold valuable lessons for the region's current economic environment and how to build a better economy in this decade.

Anxiety and Stress in the Workplace

Workplace stress and anxiety cost the Hampton Roads economy more than $1 billion in lost productivity and health care expenditures in 2019. COVID-19 has increased anxiety and taken a toll on African American and Hispanic households. How can businesses help alleviate anxiety and stress in a time of economic uncertainty?

Food Insecurity in Hampton Roads

One in 10 residents of Hampton Roads was unsure where their next meal was coming from in 2018. Among children, food insecurity rates were even higher in the region. How are our public programs and regional foodbanks are working to address these problems in Hampton Roads?

The Kids Are Not All Right: Youth Mental Health in Hampton Roads

More and more young people, particularly teenagers, report that they are anxious or depressed - a trend that has only escalated since the pandemic's outbreak. This chapter looks at the state of youth mental health and the accessibility of care in Hampton Roads. The $224 million Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters mental health hospital now under construction will address an urgent need and place the region at the forefront of behavioral and mental-health care for children.

Jefferson Lab Ponders Its Future

Research conducted at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News is not only being used to battle cancer but also to produce supercooled materials which, one day, may lead to breakthroughs in power generation and transmission and computing. The State of the Region report sheds light on its impact and the potential for Jefferson Lab to increase its visibility.

The 21st annual State of the Region luncheon is $60 for Chamber members and $80 for nonmembers, with a virtual ticket option for $15. For information and registration, see the Hampton Roads Chamber WEBSITE.

The State of the Region is a widely respected and impartial analysis of the economic issues facing Hampton Roads. The report aims to stimulate thought and conversation on how to make Hampton Roads a better place to live.

For more information about the Dragas Center and its reports, please see the Center website.

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