The local economy of Washington, D.C., remains a bright spot among cities across the country, thanks to the federal government and the roughly $1.1 billion in intergovernmental aid that the city received following the recession.
But, for D.C. to maintain its status as a "gilded" city, it needs to pivot away from its reliance on the government and focus on other sectors such as health care, high tech, or start-ups as a way to create more jobs for the region. (The federal government is the only sector that's expected to shrink in the next several years.)
Already, we're starting to see some evidence of the shift toward a more business-centric area. "I'm optimistic about high tech," says James Bohnaker, an economist with Moody's Analytics. "The only problem is that a lot of high tech is still related to the government, and that's hard if the government is not spending as much." Over the next five years, the biggest job growth in the region will come from professional and business services, followed by education and health care and local governments. Jobs in professional and business services are expected to increase by as much as 20.6 percent, while the federal government workforce will shrink by 5.8 percent.
"Professional services" sounds awfully vague, so we broke down that sector further based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Center for Research Analysis at George Mason University. Professional services means scientific, technical, and management consultants; lawyers; accountants; engineers and architects. From 1992 through 2012, that sector grew from 368,000 jobs to 702,300 jobs—with the sharper increase starting after 2002.
Changing the nature of the jobs in the District will be key to the area's future economic growth. Already, D.C. enjoys a much higher median income than the rest of the country. That figure is even higher if one factors in the median income of the whole D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia region, where that number clocks in at $88,233 for 2012.