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Stafford growth led by BRAC, hospital
Fredericksburg region added jobs during economic downturn

 Health care jobs, some tied to the new Stafford Hospital (above) are one reason area employment is growing.
FILE PHOTOS BY /PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 3/1/2012

BY BILL FREEHLING

The Fredericksburg region added about 2,200 jobs during the economic downturn, but not all sectors and localities fared equally.

An examination of Virginia Employment Commission data from the second quarter of 2011 shows that the region fared better than most during the recession, bolstered in large part by gains in health care and public administration jobs.

The VEC is expected to release at-place employment figures for the third quarter of 2011 in a couple of weeks. The data show the number of jobs based in individual localities. All figures used here are net jobs.

Stafford County fared easily the best in the region, adding about 4,758 jobs from the second quarter of 2006, a nearly 15 percent gain. That was when housing prices were peaking locally, so it provides a good pre-recession data point. Stafford provided some of the data used in this analysis.

Caroline (46) and King George (131) counties both added small numbers of jobs during that five-year period. They were among just 39 of Virginia's 134 localities to add jobs in that time.

Spotsylvania County lost 632 jobs, about a 2 percent decline.

Fredericksburg was the hardest hit area locality. The city lost about 2,098 jobs during the five years ending June 30, 2011, a nearly 8 percent decline. Only 16 Virginia localities lost more. Virginia Beach shed the most, 15,672 jobs, followed by Richmond, which lost 12,381.

Only Loudoun and Arlington counties, which gained 11,746 and 10,279, respectively, during the study period, added more jobs than Stafford. Fairfax and Prince William counties placed fourth and fifth.

The location of the top five, all in Northern Virginia, shows the extent to which federal spending boosted the area's economy during the downturn.

Stafford gained the most jobs, 2,444, in the "public administration" category, which is defined as "federal, state and local government agencies that administer, oversee and manage public programs." Many of those could be attributed to the Base Realignment and Closure-related transfers to Marine Corps Base Quantico.

King George, likely due in large part to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, gained 639 public administration jobs during the five years.

Stafford also had four-digit gains in retail trade, health care and professional services jobs.

Each of the region's five localities added health care jobs. The region gained about 4,000 health care jobs in those five years, due in large part to the openings of Stafford Hospital and the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.

The downturn in real estate development shows up in the data. About 5,000 construction jobs were lost locally during that time, with almost half coming in Spotsylvania. The city lost about 59 percent of its construction jobs during that time.

Statewide, about 62,000 jobs were lost during the five-year period, a decline of 1.7 percent.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com