Report from Dr. Fuller on the Region’s Economic Health

Jul 14, 2017

by David Levine, President/CEO

Dr. Steven Fuller of the Fuller Institute at George Mason University is probably the leading prognosticator/forecaster/crystal-ball interpreter for the Washington DC region.  His eponymous institute issued a report this week that, if anything, will only add to the thinking that the Washington DC region has slowed dramatically in its growth.

To start, Dr. Fuller noted that from 2000 to 2006 economic growth in the Washington DC metro region topped 3.8 percent; since then, from 2010 to 2016 the region has fared worse and has posted economic growth numbers of around .95 percent —a significant drop.  

At the same time, from 2000 to 2016, the Washington DC region has dropped from 4th to 15th in the ranking of the top fifteen metropolitan regions in the nation for economic growth.  As Dr. Fuller notes in the report, “being a company town has its downside.”  In other words, with the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the subsequent Sequester the amount of federal spending coming into the region has sharply fallen.  That means economic growth has dropped as well.

At the same time, against this environment of stagnating and even falling growth, rents still increase at double-digit year-over-year rates.  According to Dr. Fuller, the Washington DC metro region ranks second (of fifteen metro regions) in highest rental costs.  In overall living costs, DC comes in at an unenviable third place among the fifteen largest metro regions.

High costs of living, stagnating incomes, housing barriers.  It leads to a downward spiral in everything.  

In fact, as reported by Dr. Fuller, the Washington DC metro area has experienced a net loss of nearly thirty thousand people in each of the last three years.  These people are “outmigrating” from our region.  They are leaving because the economic opportunities are not here — or not here with sufficient returns to justify the costs of living in the area.

If anything, Dr. Fuller is optimistic that a renewed public focus on economic growth will be achieved.  This is still a region of very forward-looking and highly educated professionals.  

In and of themselves, the fundamentals within the region are very strong. These fundamentals clearly point to a future of economic improvement.