Roanoke Region Boasts Highest Job Growth Rates in 30 Years, Outperforming State and Most Virginia Metros

If job growth is an indicator of a healthy economy, it’s safe to say the Roanoke Region just got a clean bill of health. Recent data show regional employment grew 2.5 percent over the last year, outperforming the state job growth rate of 2.2 percent. The gains in the past three years (2021-23) have been the highest one-year growth rates since 1994. Additionally, job growth in the Roanoke metro was significantly above the median metro growth rate of 2.04 percent. Richmond, Charlottesville, and Harrisonburg also posted strong job gains during this period. This news comes on the heels of the Partnership’s recent announcement regarding its growing labor force. The Roanoke Region continues to boast positive economic trends.

Graph showing job growth by region in the state of Virginia
Source: Non-Farm Employment, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2023

Positive Job Growth = Healthy Economy

Job growth comes from two things: new businesses moving into the region and/or existing businesses expanding. Both things are signs of faith in our region’s upward trajectory. Our current workforce is strong and growing, and businesses believe in the region’s ability to attract more people to fill these positions. Quite simply, more employment opportunities create a ripple effect: people want to live where they can make a livable wage; people then take that money and put it back into the local economy through retail, food, and housing, thus fueling the economy further.

From May 2020 through May 2023, 20,500 jobs have been added in the Roanoke metro, bringing regional employment to 165,800, an all-time high for the region. The previous peak was nearly 22 years ago in June 2001 at 165,500.  

Regional Job Numbers by Sector

Nearly all local sectors have experienced growth. Manufacturing now employs 16,930 in the region, which is 1,500 higher than pre-pandemic levels. Private education and health services added over 300 jobs since February 2020 to reach an all-time high employment of 28,506. Most sectors have regained employment except for leisure and hospitality and retail trade. However, leisure and hospitality has regained 6,724 jobs in the region and is almost back to its pre-pandemic level, mirroring national data.  

east coast advanced manufacturingPositive Trends and Partnerships

This newest economic signal is very much in line with the recent news of our expanding labor force—the metro’s civilian labor force continues to grow and is at all-time highs. Attractive livability assets, a lively mountain-metro mix, and a growing housing product are all fueling this positive in-migration. And of course, Get2KnowNoke, the Partnership’s talent attraction brand, continues its work of retaining and attracting the cream of the crop to the region.

The Roanoke Regional Partnership, together with its local government and private investor partners, announced 435 jobs and $132 in new capital investment last year. At the mid-year point in 2023, the Partnership, together with its partners, has already announced 311 jobs and $75.2 million in new capital investment. These announcements are a shot in the arm for the economy as local businesses are called upon to get these ventures off the ground. And not for nothing, these projects do wonders for regional pride (an important tool in the talent attraction toolbox). Many of these positions are ready to be filled now, while several of them will be available in the future. Significant growth is occurring in the region at a level not seen in nearly 30 years. This is in part thanks to the investment of the public and private sectors working together towards a more prosperous future for our region.

several people with shovels at a groundbreaking event for a new building

Employment Growing in the Roanoke Region

welding a bike

A strengthening economy is showing in the newest employment figures. And with anticipated seasonal growth later this year, the region is likely to finish with the strongest private sector employment numbers since 2008.

Private sector employment in the Roanoke metro area in September 2015 was at the highest point of any September since 2008 with more than 139,400 workers, up 500 workers from September 2014. Employment gains in the past year appear to have come mainly from growth in leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and financial activities. 

Employment is expected to increase through the end of the year. Private sector employment ended in December at a higher level than in September in four of the last five years, as seasonal demand picks up primarily in retail.

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  Sept. ’14 Sept. ’15 Net Change
Private Employemnt 138,900 139,400 500
Manufacturing 16,600 16,800 200
Trade, Transportation, Utilities 34,000 33,600 -400
Information 1,700 1,700 0
Financial Activities 8,400 8,600 200
Professional and Business Services 21,700 21,100 -600
Leisure/Hospitality 14,100 14,500 400
Other Services 7,800 7,800 0

Source: Current Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Learn more about the Roanoke Region’s workforce talent.

Roanoke Recognized for Strong Workforce

roanoke virginia workforce jobsThe Roanoke Region continues to be a leading location when it comes to quality of workforce.

For the fourth year in a row, Roanoke has been recognized by Area Development Magazine in its Leading Locations for 2015 feature for having a strong workforce. Roanoke was ranked 135th out of all 373 metro areas, placing Roanoke in the top 36 percent.

And that’s no surprise to those who are hiring workers from the Roanoke Region. Our labor draw attracts workers from areas within a 60-mile radius. Pair that with a high concentration of colleges and universities and training programs, new highly-skilled people are joining the workforce every day.   

Education was one ranking consideration with factors such as the proportion of workers 18 to 44 with a college degree, inward migration of individuals with degrees, unemployment, and growth in earnings. Roanoke’s performance was strongest in regard to attracting college-educated workers, ranking in the top third of U.S. metros.

With 25 colleges and universities within an hour of Roanoke and a higher number of undergraduates per capita than Austin, TX; Boston, MA; San Francisco, CA; and Research Triangle, NC; the Roanoke Region is a great place to find talent.

The talent pool is growing in Roanoke. Area Development ranks Roanoke above several southern metros for prime workforce growth.

  • No. 135 Roanoke
  • No.142  Lexington, KY
  • No. 157 Winchester, VA
  • No. 159 Tampa, FL
  • No. 161 Hampton Roads, VA
  • No. 170 Memphis, TN
  • No. 192 Chattanooga, TN
  • No. 195 Raleigh, NC
  • No. 263 Greenville, SC
  • No. 286 Winston-Salem, NC

Learn more about the Roanoke Region’s workforce talent.