Washington, D.C. is changing–from top to bottom. So much so, that it is now even challenging Los Angeles and Chicago for the prestigious title of Second City, as it is becoming more recognized as an epicenter of political and cultural life. This might be a little intimidating as a recent grad, but try not to be taken aback by all of it. The DC you are entering is not your father’s DC, and that’s a good thing, because it means more opportunities for young professionals (more so than probably anywhere else in the country.) Here is a snapshot of how the nation’s capital has changed and, more importantly, what it means for you.
The first and most obvious thing is that DC is growing. By leaps and bounds. According to the US Census Bureau, the District has gained more than 16,000 residents since 2010, growing at a pace that’s much faster than anything seen in the boom years before it. Among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the United States, Washington ranked fourth in population growth from 2000 to 2010, trailing only the three Sunbelt towns of Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston. It is currently the seventh most populous metropolitan area in America. And you know whose responsible for this population boom? You are. Three in four newcomers in recent years have been between the ages of 18 and 34. They have absolutely no interest in the suburbs because the District is gaining a reputation of being a cool place to live for young people. The numbers back that up: the region has gained about 7,000 people ages 25 to 34 in each of the past three years. The sixth-highest rate in the nation.
Where Young People Go to Retire
Though the Great Recession has hit the nation’s young people particularly hard, the unemployment rate in DC is 5.0% and dropping (well below the national rate.) It is the second best city in the US for job seekers according to NerdWallet, and it has a higher-than-average median income and a plethora of government jobs available. “Young people are going to places that have a certain vibe,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “If there’s a recession, they want to ride it out in a place like that. And Washington has the extra advantage of being a government town that’s not as hard-hit by recessions as others.” In other words, the nation’s capital has both substance and style. And according to Forbes, it’s one of the coolest places to live now largely because of YOU. You’re starting your careers in DC and deciding to stay there. Win and win.
Well…you’re in luck. In 2011, builders started constructing more than 15,000 new apartment units throughout the Washington region due to high demand. “Much of the building is taking place in the District,” noted the Washington Post, saying that “the vast majority are ‘Class A’ units aimed at young professionals eager to live in walkable communities near shopping and public transportation. As mentioned above, since the District owes almost all its recent growth to young people, Washington has been transformed into a New York–style urban playground–all but proving the theory that hipsters and politicians can, in fact, coexist. As you start your journey on your career path, there’s probably no better place to do it than DC. A healthy job market and a vibrant community have turned this once “sleepy southern town” on the Potomac into a “destination city” drawing in more young people and young professionals every year. And since you’ve already been a summer intern in the District, you now have the advantage of knowing it better than most. You are where the opportunities are. And the best way to make the most of them is by capitalizing on the capital.