Has D.C.’s Economy Peaked?
The D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer just sent out its monthly economic trend report, and it's a bleak one. The title of the July 2013 report says it all: "Is the DC economy stalling?"
"Employment in the District of Columbia has stopped growing in recent months, according to seasonally-adjusted employment and labor force data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics," the report states. "This is true both for jobs located in the District of Columbia and for jobs held by DC residents."
According to the report, the total number of jobs located in D.C.—held by either residents or nonresidents—peaked in October 2012 at 736,400, and has since declined to 733,800 as of May 2013, the last month for which figures are available. That's just a 0.4 percent decline, but it's a sharp reversal from the growth of the previous three and a half years, during which employment increased by 5.9 percent.
Likewise, employment for D.C. residents has dipped by 665 from its March 2013 peak of 341,229—again, a small decline (0.2 percent) but a shift from the 10.1 percent growth in the previous 20 months.
While the drops in employment are small, the authors of the report note that they're particularly troubling because we haven't yet felt the full effects of the federal spending reduction known as sequestration.
"Especially because the full effects of federal spending cutbacks mandated by the sequester have not yet materialized, data suggesting that employment in the District of Columbia has already begun to decline are particularly worrisome," the report says.
D.C.'s economy was among the strongest in the country as it emerged from the recession. But while the city has grown more independent of the federal government, it still is our No. 1 industry—and the latest data are a reminder of the dangers of reliance on an industry that can shift with the political winds.