Change in jobs since 2007 by region

+6.6%

Northern

+4.8% U.S.

+5%

+4.6%

Central

+3.2% Virginia

+2.5%

+0.3%

Shenandoah

0

-1.4%

Hampton Roads

-2.5%

-3.9%

Southside

-4.7%

Southwest

-5%

2007

2016

Population density, 2013

0

200

2,000

65,000

Northern Va.

Shenandoah

Central

Richmond

Southwest

Southside

Hampton

Roads

Change in jobs since 2007 by region

+6.6% Northern Va.

+4.8% U.S.

+5%

+4.6% Central Va.

+3.2% Virginia

+2.5%

+0.3% Shenandoah

0

-1.4% Hampton Roads

-2.5%

-3.9% Southside

-4.7% Southwest

-5%

2007

2010

2013

2016

Arlington

Shenandoah

Northern Va.

Population density, 2013

0

200

2,000

65,000

Central

Richmond

Roanoke

Norfolk

Southwest

Southside

Hampton Roads

The averages may say that Virginia’s job growth almost tracks the nation’s recovery. But those overall numbers are driven by large urban counties, especially in the northern suburbs of the District.

Across Virginia, as voters decide the nation’s most-watched election this year, most areas had fewer jobs in 2016 than in 2007.

This uneven economy could impact the governor’s race between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.

Change in jobs since 2007

by county and city

More jobs

Fewer jobs

+20%

+10%

0

-10%

Arlington

Richmond

Roanoke

Norfolk

MARYLAND

Change in jobs since 2007

by county and city

Winchester

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Arlington

More jobs

Fewer jobs

Alexandria

Harrisonburg

+20%

+10%

0

-10%

Fredericksburg

Charlottesville

WEST VIRGINIA

Richmond

KENTUCKY

Roanoke

Petersburg

Wise

Virginia

Beach

Norfolk

Martinsville

TENNESSEE

NORTH CAROLINA

MARYLAND

Winchester

D.C.

Arlington

Alexandria

WEST VIRGINIA

Northern

Virginia

Change in jobs since 2007

by county and city

Harrisonburg

More jobs

Fewer jobs

Fredericksburg

+20%

+10%

0

-10%

Charlottesville

Shenandoah

Valley

Central Virginia

Richmond

KENTUCKY

Lynchburg

Roanoke

Hampton Roads and

Eastern Shore

Petersburg

Southwest

Wise

Southside

Norfolk

Virginia Beach

Chesapeake

Martinsville

Danville

TENNESSEE

NORTH CAROLINA

Of the 133 counties and cities in Virginia, 85 have lost jobs since 2007. Job growth was mainly concentrated in booming urban areas, like Northern Virginia and the central part of the state around Richmond. Meanwhile, to the south and west, communities are still dealing with the decline of their four key industries — coal mining, tobacco, textiles and furniture-making.

[Virginia’s unemployment rate is only 3.7%. So why is the economy a big issue in the governor’s race?]

Those differences matter because the divide between job winners and losers mirrors Virginia's growing political divide. Virginia voters rank the economy as their most important election issue, along with health care. Virginia’s last gubernatorial race in 2013 was close, decided by only 2.5 percent of the more than 2.2 million votes cast. And so is the current race, according to recent polling. So a shift in the votes of any region of the state could be decisive.

Margin of victory by region in 2013

Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the

state by a margin of 56,435 votes,

with big totals in these regions:

127,430

Northern Va.

49,352

Hampton Roads

12,612

Central Va.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli got support in three more rural regions, but it wasn’t enough to win the state.

48,020

Southwest

45,581

Southside

Shenandoah

39,358

Margin of victory by region in 2013 election

Northern Va.

127,430

49,352

Hampton Roads

Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the

state by a margin of 56,435 votes,

with big totals in more urban regions.

Central Va.

12,612

48,020

Southwest

Republican Ken Cuccinelli got support in three more rural regions, but it wasn’t enough to win the state.

Southside

45,581

Shenandoah

39,358

Here’s how each region has fared in the race for jobs — and how the area voted in 2016.

Northern Virginia

Three Northern Virginia counties — Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington — added more than 70,000 jobs combined since 2007. That’s 60 percent of all the new jobs in the state. The vast majority of potential voters in the D.C. suburbs and outlying areas rate their area economy good or excellent.

Northern Virginia is capable of six-digit vote margins that swing an election for Democrats. Without the region, Hillary Clinton would have lost Virginia by 171,000 votes in 2016, and four years ago Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) would have lost by 71,000.

Region won by Clinton

Region won by Trump

80,000 jobs added since 2007

Northern Virginia

There were

1.3 million

jobs in this

region in 2016.

60,000

40,000

Central Virginia

847,833 total jobs

20,000

Shenandoah

235,526 total jobs

0

Hampton Roads

741,853 total jobs

Southside

270,082 total jobs

Southwest

323,429 total jobs

-20,000

Region won by Clinton

Region won by Trump

80,000

jobs added

since 2007

Northern Virginia

There were

1.3 million

jobs in this

region in 2016.

60,000

40,000

Central Virginia

847,833 total jobs

20,000

Shenandoah

235,526 total jobs

0

Hampton Roads

741,853 total jobs

Southside

270,082 total jobs

Southwest

323,429 total jobs

-20,000

The question for Tuesday isn't so much whether Democrats can win the region, but whether it would be big enough to matter. Gillespie lives here and has based his career in Washington.

30,000

jobs added

since 2007

Clinton won 40 counties

Trump won 93 counties

Richmond and Hampton Roads

Fast-growing Loudoun County added 30,500 jobs since 2007.

The Hampton Roads region is an exception to urban job growth. Home to several military bases, it relies heavily on defense contractor jobs that in turn depend on Congress, rather than small business formation. The central Richmond region is tracking the national recovery.

These regions hold some of the state's largest concentrations of minority voters. Northam is from the Eastern Shore and has lived for decades in Norfolk, but the Hampton Roads region’s fragmented geography and weak economy could hurt him, despite its history of supporting Democrats.

20,000

Northern

Virginia

There were

1.3 million

jobs in this

region in 2016.

Chesterfield County, a suburb south of Richmond, added 12,756 jobs.

10,000

Frederick County

gained 6,265 jobs.

Clinton won 40 counties

Trump won 93 counties

5,000

Shenandoah

Hampton

Roads

Central Virginia

Southwest

Southside

235,526

total jobs

847,833 total jobs

323,429 total jobs

270,082 total jobs

741,853

total jobs

0

Roanoke and Martinsville, two smaller cities, tend to support Democrats because they are more diverse than the surrounding counties.

Hampton and the surrounding cities tend to support Democrats.

Richmond and Alexandria both lost more than 5,000 jobs, but they are large enough to

weather the recession.

-5,000 jobs

lost since

2007

The question for Tuesday isn't so much whether Democrats can win the region, but whether it would be big enough to matter. Gillespie lives here and has based his career in Washington.

Richmond and Hampton Roads

The Hampton Roads region is an exception to urban job growth. Home to several military bases, it relies heavily on defense contractor jobs that in turn depend on Congress, rather than small business formation. The central Richmond region is tracking the national recovery.

These regions hold some of the state's largest concentrations of minority voters. Northam is from the Eastern Shore and has lived for decades in Norfolk, but the Hampton Roads region’s fragmented geography and weak economy could hurt him, despite its history of supporting Democrats.

Shenandoah, Southwest and Southside

Almost half of registered voters in Virginia's south and west rate the economy in their part of the state "Not so good" or "Poor," by far the state's worst regional rating.

With its dependence on mining, manufacturing and agriculture, these areas resemble rural and small town areas across the Midwest that awarded Donald Trump some of his heartiest wins. Although Trump lost the state overall, his support in these areas demonstrated their potential political power in an era of increasing polarization.

The mostly rural areas can make up for a lack of large urban centers with sheer numbers — 71 cities and counties — and lopsided results. Trump won this swath of the state by 291,000 votes, almost 96,000 more than Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. In Virginia and the nation, people will be watching on Tuesday to see if that kind of surge happens again where the local economy hasn't come all the way back from the great recession.

Gillespie profile: Can a career tactician navigate Trump and a GOP civil war and win Virginia?

Northam profile: The lure of the steady physician: Is Northam’s résumé enough in the age of Trump?

Gregory S. Schneider contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story had the wrong map color for Louisa and Bedford counties. From 2007 to 2016, jobs in Louisa increased 24% and in Bedford dropped 2 percent.

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