Local government, food services, and retail contributed more to 2015 job growth in DC according to revised estimates; business services and health contributed much less

Every year in March the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revises state employment data, in this case from March 2014, based on more complete information. This year’s result is a net reduction of 3,066 jobs in DC—0.4% of all jobs in the city—for the December quarter of 2015 compared to the previous estimate that had been made in January.

This reduction was the consequence of changes in the various sectors of the economy. Private sector jobs were decreased by 5,566 jobs (1.0%), for example, while public sector ones were marked up by 2,500 (1.1%).

Revisions to some individual sectors were of sufficient magnitude to change how important they were in the District of Columbia labor market in 2015. Higher estimates for local government, food service, and retail gave these sectors leading roles in DC’s job growth last year. Conversely, health and business services were found to have played much smaller roles.

For the economy as a whole, the BLS revision reduced the rate of job growth from the December quarter of 2014 to the December quarter of 2015 from 1.3% to 1.1%. The revision reduced private sector growth from 1.8% to 1.3%, while the public sector went from virtually no growth to 0.9%.

In terms of employment, the revision makes DC a 30.9% government town rather than a 30.4% one.

Gaining sectors

The upward revision in public sector jobs is entirely attributable to local government—an increase of 2,767 (7.5%). (The federal government was trimmed by 267.) In the previous estimate local government jobs declined from 2014 to 2015; with the revision they go up by 1,433, equivalent to 16% of all job gains in DC for the year. The revision seems consistent with recent DC budget increases.

Food service was previously estimated to have added 367 jobs over the past year, 4% of all city job growth. The newly estimated yearly increase is 2,600—30% of all DC job growth, second only to professional and technical services. Similarly, the retail sector’s share of all one-year DC job growth has been raised to 19% from the previous estimate of 3%.

Although education got 1,400 more jobs in the revision, this was not enough to increase jobs in the sector over the prior year. The new level in 2015 is still estimated to be 1,900 (2.9%) less than a year earlier.

Losing sectors

Four sectors drove the downward revision of private sector jobs—health, business services, non-profit organizations, and finance. Together they lost 12,301 jobs. Business services declined 7.9%, health, 6.3%.  In the previous estimate, these two sectors, with 16% of all DC jobs, added 7,200 jobs in the past year, accounting for 75% of then estimated one year job growth in the city. The new estimate shows one year growth of only 900 jobs for the two sectors, a modest 10% of all DC job growth.

revision 3 group

revised growth 2

What exactly is this data? Each month the US Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles wage and salary data by industry for states and metropolitan areas.  In March of each year BLS revises the information for at least the previous year.  This blog compares the previous estimates through December 2015 that were issued in January 2016 with the revised ones issued in March 2016.  The December quarter is the average of October, November, and December.  The data are not seasonally adjusted.

A version of this blog appeared in the February 2016 District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends report. The Trend report also compares revisions for DC with those of the Washington Metropolitan area as a whole, and has a table showing revisions for all sectors of the economy.


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