Both employment and the jobless rate in the Washington area showed moderate improvement last year.
In the 12 months ending in November, 25,000 new workers were hired, a gain of 1.8 per cent. At the same time unemployment declined from 4.5 per cent in January to 4.2 in November. Nationally the jobless rate dropped from 7.3 to 6.9 per cent in 11 months.
Because it has little manufacturing, this region was mot as severely hit as other parts of the country during the 1974-75 recession. As a result, its rate of recovery has not been as rapid.
The District's unemployment drop, from 8 per cent in January to 7.3 in November, accounted for a good portion of the area's improvement. The decline also halved the gap between unemployment in innter-city Washington and the nation as a whole.
William B. Clatanoff Jr., chief of the District's Division of Manpower Reports and Analysis, explained the discrepancy. During the depth of the recession, a considerable number of women and minority group teenagers became discouraged and stopped looking for work. After the economy improved, many sought unsuccessfully to reenter the job market, becoming statistics on the rolls of the umemployed.
Other characteristics of the job market in the year that just ended:
District employment rose about 2 per cent to 310,600.
Average income levels in the area continued to lead the nation.
One-fifth of the job openings listed last year in the D.C. Job Bank went begging, remaining unfilled for 30 days or more.
In view of 1977's record, the D.C. Department of Manpower has revised its unemployment forecast upward for 1978. Early last year it was projecting a decline in area unemployment to 3.6 per cent, 6.4 in the city. The department is now predicting rates of 4 and 7.2 per cent respectively. National employment will hover at 6.75 per cent, says Joseph A. Pechman of the Brookings Institute.
Clatanoff remains optimistic about growth in employment this year, confident that it will reach previous estimates. A 10-year forecast by the department has projected an annual growth in employment of 2.4 per cent. This is smaller than in the expansionary 1960s, but larger than the national average of 1.8 per cent.
A much brighter forecast for the District in 1976 comes from Manpower, Inc., a Milwaukee employment service. Based on responses from 60 Washington companies collected by its local office, 37 per cent of them expect to increase their hiring during the first quarter, while 60 per cent will maintain present levels. This compares with 25 per cent nationally who plan to increase. Gains are predicted almost across the board for this city. Three out of five companies involved in wholesale and retail trade indicated a desire to take on more personnel. So did the service and construction agencies while public administration hire a smaller number.
While the presence of the federal government is an important factor - including the rising number of outside consultants and other private sector workers it hires - the emergence of Washington as a major business and financial center is also important. During the first six years of this decade, the banking industry increased by nearly 24 per cent. The insurance and real estate sectors are expected to grow 2.9 and 3.2 per cent respectively each year. Federal government employment will increase by only 2 per cent annually, given expected budget cuts.
Between 1970 and 1976 the fastest growing industries in the area were food and beverage providers and services. Domestic and railroad workers lost the most ground; technology pushed out stenographers.
As of 1976 government at all levels continued to employ 38 of every 100 workers, the largest share of the area's workforce. Services were second, with 23.5 per cent, and wholesale and retail trade accounted for 19.3 per cent of the jobs.
Clerical work continues to offer the most openings. Each year there are 11,500 jobs available for secretaries and 3.950 for typists. Each year more than a 1,000 cashiers, bookkeepers, public officials, accountants, lawyers, waiters, receptionists and registered nurses will be needed.
About half the positions are new jobs and half have been previously filled. In the case of lawyers, for instance, one new job is created for each replacement job, while only one new additional waiter is hired for each two replaced. In each category about 1,500 jobs are available each year.
Washingtonians are highly mobile and there is considerable job turnover. The Census Bureau reports that 28 per cent of the residents over the age of 16 moved either in or out of the District in the five years between 1965 and 1970. In a city of similar size, one-quarter of the residents could be expected to move.
The Washington area continues to have the highest per capita income of the country's 10 largest urban centers. Last year District residents earned $8,067 each, or 26 per cent above the national average. Salaries like the $550,000 Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano is reported to have earned while in private law practice push up the average, of course, while every immigrant dishwasher earning the minimum wage brings it down.
Most of the wealth is concentrated in the suburbs.Areawide, there was an average household income of $21,149 in 1976, or one-third above the national average. Fairfax County has the highest average income per household, followed by Montgomery County.
Individually, Washington clerical workers earn 5 per cent more than their counterparts in other cities. Electronic data processers ar paid higher than the national average for their field, while unskilled plant workers are 11 per cent under the average. No comparative figures are available for professionals.
In March, 1977, the average weekly income for all secretaries here was $212; for those who worked in "large establishments, the pay averaged $221.50. Computer systems analysts averaged $370; messengers, $160.
Unemployment figures by occupation show a preponderance (29.6 per cent) of professional, technical and managerial personnel out of work last September. However, this figure does not represent the true situation because the statistics include only those who applied for compensation. There are two or three times as many jobless workers who are not eligible and therefore do not appear in these figures.
At the professional level, the D.C. Manpower Department's September list included a surplus of college professors, printers and light truck drivers. Many of these persons indicated a willingness to settle elsewhere if they could not find work here. On the demand side, job opportunities were listed for such occupations as engineer, systems analyst, health provider, governess and Oriental chef. The top salary offered was $33,789 for a medical officer/psychiatrist needed for a one-year stint in narcotics treatment.
The Manpower Department has estimated that there are 184,500 persons in the area who, whether jobless, under-employed or economically disadvantaged, are in need of job training and opportunities. To help match the jobless with offers, the D.C. government runs a Job Bank. During the first three quarters of 1977, 55,035 offers were received, and 31,032 were filled within a month. However, a fifth of those jobs went begging a month or longer.
In Washington, as in other cities around the globe, alien workers have become an important segment of the work force. In many cases legal and illegal immigrants take jobs American-born workers refuse, such as domestic and restaurant kitchen helper work.
Ron Richardson, who heads Local 25 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, which has 9,000 members, estimates that 15 per cent of these workers have Spanish surnames. However, where nine out of 10 hotel employees are unionized, only one restaurant aide in 10 belongs to a union. There the proportion of alien workers may be just the reverse.
Though 1977 may have been a year of only moderate improvement, the national capital area still looks good by comparison with the rest of the country. According to Labor Department statistics, the Washington region in 1976 came out ahead of other metropolitan areas in every category. This includes black teenagers, who top the jobless rate in this city at 36.4 per cent.
Separated from the central city, the suburbs had a lower unemployment rate (4 per cent) than the suburbs of 10 other large American cities. The District, by comparison, ranked fifth in metropolitan unemployment in a list of 11 cities, after Dallas (4.9 per cent), Houston, Milwaukee and Chicago, but ahead of Cleveland, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and, in last place, Detroit (13.1 per cent).