If the world were less challenged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, economists from Old Dominion University's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis & Policy would confidently predict a strong 2022 for the Hampton Roads and Virginia economy.

Unfortunately, many things have become more difficult to forecast as the pandemic stretches to nearly two years, making ODU's annual Economic Forecast - scheduled for Jan. 26 in the Big Blue Room at the Ted Constant Convocation Center - harder to craft.

"Health drives the economy," said Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics and director of the ODU Economic Forecasting Project. "If we can control COVID-19, the economy will do quite well. But as we've seen for two years, that's a big if."

Agarwal will deliver the Hampton Roads forecast at the luncheon. Robert M. McNab, professor of economics and director of the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy in the Strome College of Business, will deliver state and national forecasts.

Registration is being accepted ONLINE for both the in-person luncheon and the virtual presentation. The cost is $60.

Agarwal said despite the shock the economy endured in 2020, the region recovered relatively well, particularly tourism and the housing sector (which was barely affected by COVID-19).

However, the ODU economist said inflation, caused by both pent-up demand and supply chain challenges, as well as a shortage of workers in just about every sector, are affecting the strength of the recovery in Hampton Roads.

"We are going to continue to have struggles with the labor market," said Agarwal, noting that factors ranging from early retirements to child-care issues to workers still struggling with the effects of COVID make finding enough employees more complex than simply raising workers' salaries (which did happen in 2021).

The Economic Forecast will also cover Department of Defense spending, the ongoing challenge of regionalism and the potential for the Port of Virginia to do even more for the Hampton Roads economy. "Can the port become an engine of economic growth, attracting manufacturing connected to our shipping, road and rail connections?" Agarwal asked.

The Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy in the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University undertakes a wide range of economic, demographic, transportation and defense-oriented studies. Since 1999, the Dragas Center has produced influential State of the Region Reports for Hampton Roads.

The Center also conducts forecasts for the U.S., Virginia and Hampton Roads and produces the State of the Commonwealth Report. For more information, including previous State of the Region and Commonwealth Reports, as well as Economic Forecasts, visit the Dragas Center Website.

To receive updates from the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, please text CEAPODU to 66866 to join its email list and follow @DragasCenterODU on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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