The federal government trimmed its payroll in 2004, but not in the Washington area. The government added local jobs at a healthy clip last year, according to Labor Department data released in July, and some local counties benefited more than others.

The number of government jobs across the United States dropped by 28,000 in December 2004, compared with the same month a year earlier, a 1 percent decline. In the Washington area, by contrast, the federal government added 7,500 jobs, a 2.6 percent rise. The difference probably reflects the concentration in Washington of jobs related to defense and homeland security, parts of the government that have been growing.

The strongest growth in government employment among local jurisdictions in percentage terms was Arlington County, which added 2,300 federal jobs, a 7.4 percent rise. That comes despite a relocation of the Patent and Trademark Office to Alexandria from Crystal City that began last year, and may reflect hiring by defense-related agencies that require easy access to the Pentagon.

Alexandria, despite the patent office influx, was the biggest loser of federal jobs, shedding 611 jobs for decline of 8.1 percent.

Other winners, in percentage terms, include Prince George's and Frederick counties in Maryland, and Fairfax in Virginia. In sheer numbers, though, the District exceeded them all in federal job creation, with a gain of 2,900 such positions in 2004, good enough for a 1.5 percent rise.

-- Neil Irwin