The Washington, D.C., metro economy is one of the largest in the nation and is home to 20 Fortune 500 companies. The local economy is primarily information-based and focused on government, lobbying, data processing and news reporting. There is also a large hospitality sector that supports almost 18 million visitors per year who spend around $6 billion locally.
Washington, D.C., maintained one of the most consistent and top-performing local economies in the nation during the past 15 years. The metro's GMP outpaced the U.S. GDP, posting strong gains during the downturn. Local retail sales growth was on par with the nation’s over the last four years.
Until recently, the federal government employed more people than any other sector in the metro. This is no longer the case, as Washington, D.C., now has a significant concentration of professional and business services employers. The local economy, however, relies on federal spending for growth. This spending enabled Washington, D.C., to fare better than most other metro areas during the recession.
The long-term outlook for the area is positive. Strengths include a highly educated labor force; status as a world capital and gateway city for international travel; inflow of tax dollars from across the nation; growing presence in high-tech, data processing and analysis, communications, and finance; and an expanding hospitality base.
The nation’s capital is located on the Potomac River, just inland from the Chesapeake Bay. The Anacostia River and Rock Creek flow through the region, and nearly 20 percent of the district is parkland managed by the U.S. National Park Service. Areas of the MSA surrounding the District of Columbia include portions of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The area around Washington, D.C., is comprised of gently rolling hills and forested plains. There is a high density of population near the capitol and inner-ring suburbs.
The Washington, D.C., metro encompasses the District of Columbia, as well as 22 counties and jurisdictions in three adjacent states. Washington, D.C., is the largest city in the metro, with a population of 631,100. The remaining population centers are much smaller, with only Arlington and Alexandria having populations more than 100,000.