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Local Job Market Rebounds

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 8, 2007

The Washington job market is expected to be robust enough in 2007 that companies say they're beginning to reminisce about the late 1990s -- a boom time that now seems so distant as to have taken on the aura of an urban job-market myth.

The region is full of growing technology, sales and legal industries and has a low unemployment rate -- just 3 percent, down from 3.1 percent at the same time last year -- making it a job-seeker's market. Last year, the region added 66,200 jobs compared with 64,700 in 2005, momentum that is expected to continue despite concerns about a slowdown in the housing market.

Those figures echoed the national experience, according to numbers released Friday. The Labor Department reported that America's employers added a more-than-expected 167,000 people to payrolls in December, while the unemployment rate held steady at 4.5 percent.

In general, growth is expected to continue with consumers purchasing more, companies back in buying mode and technology firms humming with work.

"The only reason it's truly better now is that the jobs are real," said Paul Villella, president and chief executive of Reston-based recruiting firm HireStrategy.

HireStrategy recently surveyed clients, asking how much job growth they expect this year. On average, accounting firms predict a 6 to 8 percent increase in new hires in 2007; technology firms expect 8 to 10 percent growth; and sales forces are expected to expand by 12 to 15 percent because "people are buying again," Villella said. The least growth, 2 to 4 percent, will be in the administrative-operations and human-resources area, according to his clients.

Mary W. Legg, president and general counsel of Firm Advice, a Washington-based company that places attorneys in jobs as corporate counsel, also finds herself reminded of the late 1990s.

"But the difference that I see now is that companies that are hiring are profitable companies," she said. "They are hiring because they have existing needs."

She hired someone in November whose sole job is to cold-call attorneys to see if they are interested in changing jobs. She expects a 20 percent increase in placements this year over last and is "advertising in every avenue I can find" because demand for attorneys is so high.

Here's a sample of local businesses, and what they're expecting:

Booz Allen Hamilton

The McLean consulting firm will continue to drown in résumés in 2007, says Elizabeth Miller, Booz Allen recruiting director. The company is hiring 15 percent more people worldwide than it did last year at this point in its fiscal year.

Typically, the company does 1,000 interviews from the 15,000 applications it receives per month. It hires about 4,000 people a year and, as of the end of 2006, had a workforce of 18,595. It has about 1,200 job postings per month.

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