The data comes in piles. No employment sector has seen weaker job creation since last year than the federal government. The sequestration has made that problem worse. And that means that unemployment in the nation's capital, once dropping steadily, is stuck. Not that the city got a vote on the sequestration or anything.
Gallup provides that job creation data. Here's how private and federal government creation compares over the past twelve months. The figures are the percentage difference between survey respondents that said they were hiring workers, versus firing them. (State and local government job growth has been slower than the private sector, but positive.)
In other words, federal government survey respondents were more likely to indicate that they are laying people off than hiring in every single month of the past year. Notice the particularly large difference indicated in March 2013. On March 1, the sequestration began. We knew anecdotally that those cuts were affecting federal employees directly; Gallup's data shows it clearly. In March, 23 percent of federal offices were hiring. Forty-one percent were laying people off.
On Tuesday, the mayor of D.C., Vincent Gray, showed how that drop-off was affecting city residents. His office shared a version of the graph below, showing the city's unemployment rate over time.
Notice that since December, the rate has stayed flat. Gray's office explains that private sector growth has been offset by government cuts.
Between January 2011 and July 2013, the District lost 14,600 government jobs and created 23,700 private-sector jobs. In the six-month period between January 2013 and July 2013, the number of government jobs in the District decreased by 7,000. This is the largest seven-month decline in government jobs in the District since February 1998. City officials say if sequestration had been averted, the unemployment rate could have been as low as 8 percent.
A graph obtained by The Washington Post shows how that decrease in federal employees has caused unemployment to stagnate.
It's not the D.C. residents who voted for the sequestration who are affected, of course. Some of the members of Congress who voted for the 2011 Budget Control Act lost their jobs — like Senator Scott Brown — but that job loss was unrelated to the vote. Instead, it's the residents of D.C. that have had to deal with its effects.
And not all residents, either. There are two D.C.s: the transitory one that coalesces for two- or four- or six-year stints and then dissipates back to the fifty states, and the stationary, largely black one that looks for work where available. The first D.C. passes the bills that affect the second one. The second D.C. — represented in the big building on Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. only by non-voting Eleanor Holmes Norton — can't do anything about it.