The region’s economy now will have to lean more heavily on the private sector to pick up the slack.
[See which companies made this year’s list.]
Economists say that is likely to be a tall order, given how dependent the region is on the government sector. In the main, many employers, even in healthy sectors, remain cautious about hiring, given their uncertainty about the course of the global economy.
Whether they serve the federal government, “companies are sitting on a lot of available funds,” said Jim Dinegar, chief executive of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.“The unwillingness to spend is in large part due to the uncertainty in the marketplace being driven by Capitol Hill.”
This uncertainty has “permeated the thinking of business executives around here,” he said. “They are giving me the sense that they are writing off 2012 as a year of little to no growth, despite pent up demand.”
The experiences of the Post 200 offer a glimpse into how fortunes are changing.
Defense giants such as Lockheed Martin cut back in 2011, while others in health care, law firms and nonprofits showed some pickup in hiring.
Professional and business services, comprised of information specialists, consultants and accountants, led the Washington region in job growth throughout the year. The sector, for instance, added a net of 8,700 jobs from October 2010 to October 2011. That’s a far cry from the 22,700 jobs added in that sector during the 12-month period ending March, illustrating the continued slow down in regional employment.
Micros Systems in Columbia is one company that added jobs. It brought on 23 new, local employees in the past year, boosting its headcount to 1,016. The company, which provides the hospitality industry with cash registers and computer applications for back-office functions, is projecting revenue north of $1.1 billion this year, a 10 percent increase over the prior year.
“We’re seeing demand pick up in hotels, restaurants and retail. People are feeling more confident and eating out more, traveling more and buying more stuff,” said Peter Rogers, executive vice president of business development at Micros Systems. As a result, “we’re in a growth mode and hiring software developers, sales people, engineers.”
The hospitality and leisure sector in the Washington area has been a leading supplier of jobs this year, contributing 4,100 positions from October 2010 to October 2011. The Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy anticipates hospitality will grow roughly 2 to 3 percent a year over the next 10 years.
The region is teeming with restaurant groups that have expanded their businesses by launching new concepts or replicating successful existing ones.