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Washington Economy

Washington DC has a growing, diversified economy with an increasing percentage of professional and business service jobs. The gross state product of the District in 2007 was $93.8 billion, ranking at number 35 when compared with the fifty states. As of March 2008, the federal government accounted for about 27% of the jobs in Washington DC. Many other businesses such as law firms, independent contractors (both defence and civilian), non-profit organisations, lobbying firms, national associations of labour and professional groups, catering, and administrative services companies are directly or indirectly sustained by the federal government. Washington is thought to be relatively immune to downturns in the national economy because the federal government, and those who work with it, continue operations even during economic recessions.

The District serves as an economic anchor to the metropolitan area. Many of the jobs in D.C. are filled by commuters from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, thereby contributing to the economic growth of both states. As of March 2008, the Washington Metropolitan Area had an unemployment rate of 3.4%; the lowest rate among the 40 largest metro areas in the nation. It is also significantly lower than the national average unemployment rate during the same period of 5.2%.

Washington has growing industry unrelated to government, especially in the areas of education, finance and scientific research. The George Washington University, Georgetown University, Washington Hospital Center, Howard University and Fannie Mae are the top five non-government-related employers in the city. There are five Fortune 1000 companies based in Washington, of which two are also Fortune 500 companies. The city has become a leader in global real estate investment, behind London, New York City, and Paris. In 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked DC among the top ten areas in the nation favorable to business expansion. Washington has the third-largest downtown in the United States in terms of commercial office space, directly behind New York City and Chicago.

Gentrification efforts are taking hold in Washington DC, reviving once-decaying neighbourhoods into thriving urban centres. Most notable are the changes made in the U Street Corridor, Logan Circle, the 14th Street Corridor, Shaw and Columbia Heights. A new shopping mall opened in Columbia Heights in March 2008 represents the first new major retail centre in DC in 40 years. Gentrification, however, while helping revitalise the city's economy, is not directly helping poor communities as much as it is replacing them with new higher-income residents. Further, the benefits of economic growth are not evenly distributed throughout the city. For example, DC's unemployment rate fluctuates greatly within the city from 1.5% in affluent Ward 4 to 16.3% in Ward 8 in August 2006. According to the US Census Bureau in 2005, when compared with the states, DC has the highest personal income per capita in the country but also has the highest poverty rate, which further serves to highlight the economic disparities still present in the city.





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