The pandemic has had a chilling effect on both resident employment and private sector employment in D.C. In the first few months of the pandemic, 37,413 D.C. residents lost their jobs. Since then, we have gained back 26,633 jobs (through December 2021), but we are still behind by nearly 11,000 jobs. Private sector jobs in the city—regardless of the residency of the employee—took a bigger hit. We lost 85,700 private sector jobs and made up for less than half of it. We are still missing 47,700 jobs.
What is even more disconcerting is the foregone growth—the growth we would have experienced in resident employment and total employment in D.C. in the absence of a pandemic. Between 2011 and 2019, resident employment grew by 2.8 percent. That growth has been forever lost because of the pandemic: 22,354 residents in D.C., who would have otherwise been employed, are without a job (and in some cases, too discouraged to look for a job) because of the chilling effects of the pandemic. Private employment is also behind. Between 2011 and 2019, private employment grew by 2 percent per year. Had we experienced the same growth between January 2020 and December 2021, we would have had 22,674 more private sector jobs today compared to January 2020, or a total private sector employment of 579,000 jobs. But, because of the pandemic, we have only 518,000 jobs in the private sector.
These unrealized job gains matter because the city’s fiscal strength, and budget trajectory, depend upon more employment, but this interdependence has been overshadowed by the injection of federal funds. In the absence of a significant revision to public spending, in the long run, spending would have to be cut back unless jobs return to the city.