D.C. job market sees slightly higher growth than national average, study says

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Students hoping to find work in D.C. after graduation may have better luck than anticipated, according to a recent report from Delta Associates, a research firm specializing in research, advisory and publication services.

According to the report, the D.C. area job market is recovering more successfully from the economic crisis than other cities. The general employment rate in the District dropped one percent, compared to a three percent national decline, the report said.

A major component of new job opportunities came from the expansion of government positions.

“The local area increased in new payroll jobs over the month of March,” said Elizabeth Norton, vice president of Delta Associates. “There was a shed in construction and financial jobs, with a growth in government, education, and health fields.”

The District is unique among U.S. cities because of the dominance of the public sector and government-related industries, history professor Christopher Klemek said. Klemek specializes in the history of cities and urban environments at GW.

“Consequently, D.C. has grown at precisely those times that defy larger urban trends, because of the propensity of the federal government to increase programs and expenditures during periods of need,” he said.

Klemek said based on economic patterns throughout history, the growth in the D.C. job market is likely to stay consistent as time continues due to the growth in urban populations.

“The District grew most dramatically during economic or even military crises, most notably during the Great Depression and World War II, a period when the District’s population doubled,” he said. “This story can be extended to encompass the long century from the Civil War through the Cold War.”

Despite this job growth, the report emphasized that the recovery will be slow on the local level of D.C., as in the larger national-level recovery.

“We expect government to continue to grow jobs in 2010,” Norton said. Cities with worse recoveries than D.C. include Los Angeles, which lost 203,000 jobs last year. Norton said, however, metro areas showed slight gains in March across the board.

“It is not at all surprising that Washington has been a bright spot in terms of job growth during this most recent recession,” Klemek said. “If the previous expansions are any guide, the growth will probably be permanent.”

Overall, Klemek said graduates seeking work in Washington will continue to have more options as the country recovers.

“Particular programs, parties, and administrations may come and go,” he said, “but the Washington regional economy seems to perpetually consolidate its gains.”

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