Chmura Welcomes Laura Leigh Savage

Chmura is pleased to welcome Laura Leigh Savage as Director of Operations and Economic Development Specialist. Laura Leigh has worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) since 2004 in project management and business development roles for business attraction as well as business retention and expansion. In January 2015, she was recognized as one of North America’s top 50 economic developers by Consultant Connect. Prior to working with the VEDP, Laura Leigh spent 20 years in banking and commercial real estate financing followed by experience in a marketing consultant firm.

Laura Leigh brings a seasoned, real-world, and proven background as an economic development practitioner to Chmura’s seventeen years of experience working with economic developers through our consulting practice and technology solutions — JobsEQ and LaborEQ. You can contact Laura Leigh at LauraLeigh.Savage [at]

With Laura Leigh’s addition to the firm, Leslie Peterson’s new role will be President, Chief Strategy Officer and Dr. Christine Chmura will be the Chief Executive Officer while remaining the firm’s Chief Economist. 

Leslie’s new position will allow her to more fully utilize her 16 years of strategic planning and sales skills from the chemical industry as Chmura Economics & Analytics takes on a more prominent role in commercial real estate and site selection markets.

As CEO, Dr. Chmura will continue to lead the company in its vision to be the nation’s preferred provider of economic research, software, and data solutions. To this end, she will focus on researching important economic issues surrounding labor and regional growth, forecasting, and Department of Defense economic modeling.

Upcoming Events: March 30, 2015 IEDS Presentation

Event Date: March 30, 2015

Event Time: 2:15pm - 3:45pm

Location: Renaissance Arlinton Capital View 2800 S Potomac Ave Arlington, VA 22202


-Breakout: Data and Information: Fueling Your Economy

Data provide the foundation for myriad decisions made by economic developers and elected officials. Available resources for data have increased over the past few years, from Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many private sources. This workshop will focus on a combination of hard skills associated with data research and utilization, discussion on effective uses of data, and what are that ‘data holes' that need to be filled. 

What you will learn: 

  • How can you leverage all of the options out there into useful information to better inform your next big decision? 
  • What information proves the most influential when communicating your needs to your local-elected officials? 
  • What data do you need that you're NOT getting and how can economic developers communicate that to data collectors? 



Conference Website: International Economic Development Council

Job growth in Virginia wasn't very stellar last year.

Job growth in Virginia wasn't very stellar last year.

Virginia gained only 12,900 jobs in 2014, or a 0.3 percent increase from the previous year.

That increase was the worst year-over-year performance the state has had since 2010, when it shrunk by 4,800 jobs in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The meager employment growth in Virginia last year is in stark contrast to the 1.9 percent growth in the nation over the same period.

The Northern Virginia metro area, which typically undergirds economic growth in the state, grew 0.4 percent in 2014 as federal spending cuts continue to dampen growth.

Richmond, on the other hand, had a stellar performance of 1.9 percent employment growth in 2014, making it the fastest growing metro area in the state.

Employment in the state is expected to pick up to 0.6 percent growth in 2015, according to the forecast in the annual Thomas Jefferson Institute “Virginia Economic Forecast” produced by Chmura Economics & Analytics.

By comparison, national employment is forecast to expand 1.7 percent this year. Across-the-board cuts in federal spending are cited as the main factor contributing to the sub-par growth in the state.

Three months after our original forecast, we still expect national employment to grow 1.7 percent in 2015. However, based on the latest data, 0.9 percent seems more realistic for the state.

Why the upward revision?

Forecasting is always difficult, but regional forecasts are even more difficult during the final months of the year, particularly when the economy is shifting to a much faster or slower pace of growth.

The monthly employment numbers for Virginia and its metro areas are based on a sample of firms that represent about 30 percent of the employees in the state. It is called the current employment statistics data.

In March of every year, the Virginia Employment Commission revises previously released employment estimates with more reliable quarterly census of employment and wages data through an annual process known as benchmarking.

The data collected through the employment and wage program represent almost a complete count of employment.

More than 96 percent of civilian jobs are counted through this wage and salary program because employers are required by law to provide the employment commission with a quarterly count of the number of employees covered under unemployment insurance.

So, the further away from March, the greater the potential for error in the employment data. And if a forecast is created based on employment growth that is too high or too low, it will contribute to an incorrect forecast.

To minimize the potential error of the revised data, we used data with a 6 month to 9 month lag as well as other data such as retail sales and payroll withholding figures that are not subject to revisions to inform the forecast.

Based on those data, it’s looking like Virginia’s employment growth will be faster than our original forecast.

The potential of further sequestration in October would once again dampen Virginia’s growth. Newly benchmarked data to be released in March will provide a more accurate base for our forecast.


Christine Chmura is CEO and Chief Economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics. She can be reached at (804) 649-3640 or receive e-mail at


Have Population and Commuting Patterns Changed In Your Region?

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Micropolitan Statistical Areas (µSAs) are collections of counties where there is so much interconnectivity between the counties that they should be measured as one economy rather than separate counties.  For example, in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas MSA many individuals live in Tarrant County but work in Dallas County.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) periodically updates the definitions of MSAs and µSAs based on Census commuting and population data. MSAs “have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.” Similarly, µSAs “have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.”

Though the OMB provides historical delineations  and current definitions, it is difficult to find a comprehensive list of changes made to the statistical areas. The current definitions were released in February 2013, and the previous definitions were released in December 2009. The dashboard below allows users to view changes to MSAs and µSAs definitions between the 2009 and 2013.

Using Texas as an example, click through the tabs to see the filters that can be applied to your statistical area.

To summarize the changes in Texas:

  • Hudspeth County was added to the El Paso, TX MSA
  • Oldham County was added to the Amarillo, TX MSA
  • Lynn County was added to the Lubbock, TX MSA
  • Martin County was added to the Midland, TX MSA
  • Falls County was added to the Waco, TX MSA
  • Newton County was added to the Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX MSA
  • Little River County, AR was added to the Texarkana, TX-AR MSA
  • Glasscock County was added to the Big Spring, TX µSA
  • Trinity County was added to the Huntsville, TX µSA
  • Zapata County was added to the Zapata, TX µSA
  • Roberts County was removed from the Pampa, TX µSA
  • Fannin County was removed from the Bonham, TX µSA
  • Burnet County was removed from the Marble Falls, TX µSA
  • Delta County was removed from the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA
  • San Jacinto County was removed from the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA
  • Hood County and Somerville County were removed from the Granbury, TX µSA and absorbed into the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA
  • Calhoun County was removed from the Victoria, TX MSA and added to the Port Lavaca, TX µSA
  • The Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX MSA was renamed Killeen-Temple, TX MSA
  • The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX MSA was renamed Austin-Round Rock, TX MSA
  • The Houston-Sugar Land Baytown, TX MSA was renamed Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX MSA

Economic Impact: As economy gains, risk of recession seems slight

The current economic expansion that began in June 2009 is now in its 68th month.

That makes it nine months longer than the average of the 11 expansions that occurred between 1945 and 2009, although the last three expansions have lasted an average of 95 months.

Does the current expansion have the strength to continue or will the U.S. economy be heading into a recession?

The continued drop in the price of oil to less than $50 a barrel is occurring, in part, because of the increase in production in the United States and may reflect a drop in demand.

That drop in demand, some point out, is occurring because of weakness in Eurozone economies and a slowdown in growth in China.

Some observers point out that the global weakness will lead to less demand for U.S.-made goods and services, which will slow our growth.

With this scenario, it’s important to recognize that about 13 percent of U.S. gross domestic product came from exports compared with the prior year.

Deflation, which remains a real concern in the Eurozone, could contribute to weakness in their banking system. The most pessimistic analysts also see this impacting our economy, which could translate into a recession.

Those arguing for a recession might also point out that each of the three major stock indices fell about 3 percent early last week, which may signal a recession.

However, we’re not even close to a bear market, which is defined as a 20 percent drop in one of the major U.S. stock market indices. Even if we were, bear markets aren’t always accompanied by recessions.

Over the past 30 years, there have been five bear markets and three recessions.

Pointing toward continued expansion is real gross domestic product growth, which was revised up to a whopping 5 percent annualized rate in the third quarter of 2014. That’s the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003 when GDP grew at a 6.9 percent annualized rate.

Third quarter growth comes on the heels of a 4.6 percent annualized pace in the second quarter that was partially a rebound from a contraction in the first quarter. The first quarter contraction was mostly attributable to severe winter weather.

Early results on holiday spending reflect a consumer that is loosening up their pocket books.

Of course, lower gas prices are supporting some of that spending. The increase in job hiring also is putting more money into the U.S. economy and creating the momentum to fuel further growth.

Increased demand causes businesses to hire more people and purchase more supplies and equipment which leads to more hiring and more economic growth.

From this perspective, we don’t expect the nation to dip into recession anytime soon.  In fact,we are looking for continued growth in the national economy to the tune of an increase of 3.4 percent in real gross domestic product in 2015 and 3.7 percent in 2016.