Unemployment in the Washington area continued to improve slowly in 2012. The region’s jobless rate fell from 5.5 percent in January to 5.3 percent in October, the most recent month for which rates are available. The local economy added 34,300 jobs between November 2011 and November 2012, with most of the growth coming from the private sector.
The sector with the strongest performance this year was education and health services, which added 11,300 jobs in the one-year period ending in November. As the massive baby boom generation ages, demand has grown for health care workers.
The jobs picture was not as encouraging, however, in the government sector and the professional services sector, which together form the bedrock of the regional economy. The federal government shed 4,200 jobs. And while the professional services industry continued to be one of the area’s largest job creators, economists say the sector has been underperforming and that its pace of growth has been too moderate to give the area’s recovery a major boost.
— Sarah Halzack
Contractors cut back
While the public only became aware of terms such as “sequestration” and the “fiscal cliff” later in the year, contractors started buzzing about the falloff in government spending in January.
Many government program managers kept a tight leash on new spending given the uncertainty over federal budget plans.
As time passed, concern about sequestration — or about $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts — only heightened. This summer, major contractors such as Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin warned that they might be forced to issue layoff notices to their employees in the fall under federal law.
After guidance from the Labor Department and the Office of Management and Budget, contractors shelved those plans but many continued to make reductions to their real estate and employees.
— Marjorie Censer
A scandal over conference spending
Few federal agencies had a more trying year than the government’s real estate manager, the General Services Administration. The GSA’s leadership, including administrator Martha Johnson and Public Buildings Commissioner Robert Peck, was toppled in April following revelations about excessive spending on a Las Vegas conference. Picking up the pieces is acting administrator Dan M. Tangherlini, who is considering redevelopment of the J. Edgar Hoover Building and 22 acres along Independence Avenue, and looking to cement a deal with Donald and Ivanka Trump to redevelop the Old Post Office.
— Jonathan O’Connell
SAIC announces split
McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. made one of the most decisive moves of 2012, announcing that it would split its storied business into two pieces: a roughly $4 billion-a-year services business focused on areas such as systems engineering and financial analysis and an estimated $7 billion-a-year IT company — which SAIC is calling a “solutions” business — with expertise in science and technology for the national security, engineering and health sectors.