When it comes to the largest industries, how do wages in Hampton Roads stack up?

John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) at Newport News Shipbuilding (WYDaily Photo/ Courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries)
John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) at Newport News Shipbuilding (Southside Daily Photo/ Courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries)

There are a lot of things that make Hampton Roads — and its traffic — as busy as it is. 

Hampton Roads is a mecca for industry, tourism and military operations. Sandy beaches, roller coasters and immersive museums are just a few miles away from military bases, shipyards and piles of coal. 

It’s a busy, populous place: More than 1.7 million people live in Hampton Roads and the surrounding areas, filling jobs at Newport News Shipbuilding, Busch Gardens, area hotels, public schools and more.  

Monday is Labor Day, celebrating the social and economic achievements of American workers.

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” the U.S. Department of Labor said on the history of Labor Day page. 

When it comes to Hampton Roads’ largest employers, how do wages in the area stack up compared to the state and national averages?

May 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor statistics shows many wages for the region’s largest industries are within a few thousand dollars of the national average. Some, like health care professions, trail about $5,000 behind the national annual wage, while others, like educational jobs, are about $1,000 above.

Here are Hampton Roads’ 10-largest employers and how many employees they have:

  • Huntington Ingalls Industries (Newport News Shipbuilding): 24,000
  • Sentara Healthcare: 22,000
  • Virginia Beach City Public Schools: 10,576
  • Norfolk Naval Shipyard: 8,500 
  • Riverside Health System: 8,000 
  • Virginia Beach City: 7,000
  • Norfolk City Public Schools: 6,527
  • Chesapeake City Public Schools: 5,726
  • Newport News City: 5,600
  • Naval Medical Center Portsmouth: 5,400

Meanwhile, some smaller — but still critical — industries and services show area wages trailing behind Virginia and United States averages. Some are substantially lower than the national average, including those in legal occupations, tax preparers and psychiatrists.

Lower-paying service industry jobs like food preparation and amusement attendants make a few thousand dollars less than the national average each year.

Other occupations in Hampton Roads are set up for success with higher-than average wages, including positions such as real estate sales agents and optometrists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks Hampton Roads as part of a larger metropolitan area in eastern Virginia, spanning from James City County, to Isle of Wight and Mathews counties, then down as far as Currituck County in North Carolina.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report exact wages for particular employers, only average wages for particular positions in the region. 

Industry and health care

Generally, wages for production-related occupations such as shipbuilding run a little above-average in Hampton Roads compared to Virginia and the United States as a whole.

Occupations such as welders, which are seen at places like Newport News Shipbuilding, make about $49,860 in the Hampton Roads area, compared to $46,360 statewide.

Health care workers, on the other hand, make a bit less than the state and national average — at about $77,700 compared to about $82,000 state and nationwide.

In Hampton Roads, registered nurses average $67,120 per year, instead of $69,790 statewide and $75,510 nationwide.

Public service and government

Many of the region’s largest employers are schools and local governments.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t include specific data for government employees, but it does those in education make slightly — but only about $1,200 annually — more than their national counterparts.

Outside of local government, but still in public service, legal professions in Hampton Roads see far fewer dollars each year, about $82,000 per year.

Those same positions make about $75,510 and $108,690 in Virginia and the United States, respectively.

Service, hospitality and tourism

Hampton Roads’ top-10 employers may not cater to tourism, but tourism is still a critical industry in the area.

Out of the area’s largest employers, there are several that cater to tourists and locals through service and hospitality occupations.

The types of jobs in hospitality vary greatly, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t break down average wage data into a specific “hospitality” category, but some occupation data points show wages in Hampton Roads run lower than the national average.

Maids and housekeepers, groundskeepers and janitors, salespeople, food preparation workers and dishwashers all make between $1,000 and $5,000 less than state and national averages.

Some of the area’s largest employers include:

  • The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Williamsburg: 3,100 employees
  • Gold Key/PHR Hotels & Resorts in Virginia Beach: 2,400 employees
  • Busch Gardens in Williamsburg: 4,200 employees, 4,000 of which are seasonal
  • LTD Management Company (hotel development and management services) in Chesapeake: 1,810 employees
  • Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg: 624 employees

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.