Region Forward Blog

Why It Is Hard To Find A Job In Boomtown

Feb 21, 2014


Since the Great Recession it is about forty percent more difficult to find a job in our region. This probably sounds both accurate and a little surprising because yes the recession was bad but there has been so much reporting the booming economy during the recovery.

The charts below demonstrate how our economy has grown tremendously while jobs became harder to find. From 2003 through 2012 Metropolitan Washington’s gross regional product has grown by forty percent in current dollars. That means after inflation the goods and services produced in our region’s economy are worth forty percent more than they were in 2003. Even more importantly this growth has been consistent from year to year even during 2009 the worst year of the recession for our region.


This steady growth encouraged an average of 53000 people to join the labor force each year before the recession and 42000 to join each year during the recovery (labor force is employed civilian population plus the unemployed population actively seeking employment). Maybe most surprisingly our labor force grew by more than 9000 in 2009 while more than 68000 jobs were lost. Starting in 2011 more people were employed in the region than in pre-recession years. At the same time unemployment has remained nearly forty percent higher averaging 6.1 percent after the recession compared to 3.5 percent prior due to persistent growth in the labor market.

Preliminary data indicates that 2013 might have been the year that employment begins catching up with the labor force. The changes are likely combination of factors including broader economic recovery nationally the government shutdown and displaced workers finding new jobs. During the first half of 2013 the labor force was growing at a slightly slower pace than the previous year. Then the data indicate that the federal government shutdown coincided with a decline in the workforce. Preliminary data for November 2013 indicate that the labor force was smaller than it has been at any point since April of 2012. At the same time preliminary employment data indicates that employment throughout 2013 likely increased despite a slight decline during the federal government shutdown. Taken together 2013’s preliminary data indicate that that it might start getting easier to find a job as long as employment remains strong.

This post was written by Ryan Hand a Regional Planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

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