Which workers were hardest hit by pandemic-related job losses in DC region?

Among the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas, the D.C. region lost the fewest number of jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic early on, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, or COG.

Between March and April 2020, the D.C. area lost more than 300,000 “non-farm” jobs — more than during the entire Great Recession about a decade ago. During the same period, Los Angeles lost nearly 900,000 jobs, and the New York metropolitan area lost almost 1.8 million jobs.

“We’ve recovered about 180,000 of those jobs (as of December), so we’ve actually clawed back about three-fifths of what we’ve lost. But, there are still some protracted losses in a number of different sectors,” Paul DesJardin, COG’s director of community planning and services told the COG board Wednesday.

Hardest hit have been people working leisure and hospitality jobs, followed by accommodation and food services and educational and health services.

An evaluation of census data reveals the pain is being borne fairly evenly.

“People who work in the hospitality industry live everywhere throughout the metropolitan area. They might be your neighbor; they might be somebody you see on a day-to-day basis,” DesJardin said.

The most recent data shows the area’s unemployment rate is about 5.5% to 5.6%, DesJardin said. That is about half what it was roughly a year ago.

“Our unemployment rate basically tripled. We went from a little over 3% to almost 10% in one month,” he said. “Conversely, the national rate jumped almost 15%, so we were still fully 5 points below the national average.”

DesJardin said the D.C. area’s unemployment rate is traditionally a point or so below the national average, and the job growth rate typically is a point or so above the national average.

Finding an affordable place to live, though, could be an ongoing issue.

New housing permits issued during 2019 and 2020 declined from about 22,000 to about 21,000 per year, which does not meet COG adopted goals of 32,000 a year needed to accommodate an anticipated expanding workforce.

“If we cannot, in fact, produce more units, there’s the concern that the housing affordability challenge that we’re facing now will only get worse,” DesJardin said.

COG has been gathering pandemic-related data on the economy, environment, transportation and health to get a holistic view of how the region had been affected and how it might best plan long-term for recovery.

“We’re rolling it up into a series of discussions and briefings to all of our different policies bodies at COG to inform our elected officials,” DesJardin said.

Presentations to policy committees on additional topics are expected in coming months.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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