Virginia's economic growth rate slowed last year last, and while most experts forecast a slowdown continuing into 1988, the good news is that the state economy is still expected to outperform the nation's.

The decline "reflects a leveling-off in construction and slower real growth in retail trade and private services," William and Mary analyst Roy Pearson said. While construction remains high, "the boom in construction in 1987 has ended, removing one strong source of demand and job growth."

On the state level, Pearson is calling for a 2.3-percent increase in personal income in 1988 and nonagricultural farm employment to rise by 2 percent.

The benchmark of any economy is how many people have jobs and on that scale Virginia is doing very well.

The latest unemployment rate to be released was under 4 percent -- well under the national average -- and the state Economic Development Department reported 16,187 new jobs were announced in the first nine months of 1987.

Jobs coming in rarely make as much news as jobs going out, such as the Home Shopping Network dumping 900 people out of work by leaving Salem, but some notable projects were announced in 1987 -- including NASA's decision to base its space station headquarters in Virginia.

Workers in Dayton and Danville -- and even Redskin Park in Chantilly -- learned it was perfectly legal to be replaced by strikebreakers, but the biggest labor news of 1987 came with the end of a long-running feud between Coors and organized labor, setting the stage for a union election in Elkton in 1988.

Interstate bank mergers -- and name changes -- continued to surge through the state's financial institutions but when it came to sheer money, nothing generated headlines like the continuing bankruptcy reorganization of the A.H. Robins Co. and the $2.5 billion it was ordered to spend on Dalkon Shield victims.

Investments continued to flow into the state's basic infrastructure. The long-delayed dredging of the port of Hampton Roads began, Richmond finally got an airport that was nicer than its bus station and Gov. Gerald Baliles continued with his massive program of highways at $15 an inch.

Baliles also traveled the globe in promoting Virginia's foreign trade opportunities, including the masterful stroke of getting an item considered inedible by the USDA -- chicken feet -- sold as delicacies in Hong Kong.