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Washington region at risk of losing 450k jobs

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Photo - Nearly 450,000 people in the Washington region could find themselves unemployed because of federal spending cuts that are slated to start kicking in next year, according to one estimate. (Examiner file)
Nearly 450,000 people in the Washington region could find themselves unemployed because of federal spending cuts that are slated to start kicking in next year, according to one estimate. (Examiner file)
Local,DC,Liz Farmer

The Washington region could lose nearly 450,000 jobs as a result of federal government spending cuts slated to start kicking in next year, a new estimate released Tuesday says.

The total, which is a tally of jobs expected to be cut across Virginia, Maryland and the District over the next decade, accounts for one-fifth of the country's estimated 2.1 million government-related job losses, according to the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis. The massive spending cuts are set to be triggered in January and phased in over several years after congressional leaders failed last year to reach their own spending compromise.

"For a long time, we've gotten 15 cents of every [federal] dollar spent, and now it shows up the other way here," said Stephen Fuller, the GMU center's director. "We have a dependence that's greater than any region in the country -- that's served us well for the last 20 or 30 years, but it's not going to serve us well if we start shrinking."

Bye-bye, Uncle Sam
Top 10 projected federal job losses, by state:
  Total job losses* One job for every residents
California 225,464 165
Virginia 207,571 39
Texas 159,473 158
D.C. 127,407 5
Maryland 114,795 50
Florida 79,459 237
Pennsylvania 78,454 164
New York 70,010 277
Massachusetts 60,497 108
Georgia 54,512 178
*DIRECT, INDIRECT AND RELATED JOB LOSSES
SOURCE: GMU Center for Regional Analysis

Of the total 449,773 jobs predicted to be cut here, Virginia is slated to lose the most in the region, followed by the District and Maryland. The three jurisdictions rank among the top five states hurt most by the cuts.

And according to a Washington Examiner analysis, the jurisdictions are the top three in the country in job losses per capita with a combined average of one job lost for every 32 residents.

However, experts say it is unlikely the planned cuts will happen exactly as scheduled, as a proposal in Congress is pending that would delay the cuts until March. That would give the new Congress time to reach a new compromise.

"So it's not going to go away entirely, but it's getting closer to who's going to blink first," Fuller said.

Nearly half of the job losses in the region would come directly from defense-related spending cuts, according to the report. The remainder would be a combination of cuts in procurement and layoffs related to less consumer spending here.

Because so much of the region's economy -- 40 percent of $425 billion in annual spending -- is tied to the federal government, growth has lived and died by Uncle Sam, Fuller said.

"The important question is, who's going to make up for the loss?" he said.

Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said he believes growth will rely on the education, health and cyber-technology sectors, and on natural gas exploration in Western Maryland.

"It will require a very dramatic shift that will be felt immediately," he said.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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