Sherwood's Notebook: How Good Is It Here?

The Washington region is doing pretty damn good.

Our average household income is $115,275. That is nearly 60 percent higher than the U.S. average of $72,809.

The new statistics come from Delta Associates, which keeps tabs on the ups and downs of our regional economy. Its year-end review for 2014 says our area over the next few years likely will add about 44,000 jobs annually. That’s apparently pretty good considering the federal government is not growing but in many cases cutting jobs.

Since the national recession of 2008 to 2010, Delta Associates says Washington “performed better than almost any other major metro area in terms of unemployment, job growth and income growth.” It says the region began slowing over the past two years, in part because of federal budget cuts and harsh weather. “But payroll job change remained positive,” it says, though just below historical standards.

And back to that high average household income.

“The elevated household incomes in the Washington area yield increased discretionary spending and support demand for retail goods and space,” Delta Associates reports. That’s probably good news for the high-end CityCenterDC that has been opening downtown. Its upscale niche ensures many people will experience the stores there only through window shopping.

But here are some startling numbers on how much retail space there is around this region.

There’s a total of 73.3 million square feet in the metro suburbs. Of that, 39.8 million is in Northern Virginia, 33.5 million in suburban Maryland.

And are the suburbs growing? Yes, says Delta Associates. It reports 1.4 million square feet of shopping center space now under construction in suburban Maryland, about the same as Northern Virginia. But Northern Virginia has double the amount of “planned space” that’s still on the drawing boards or in the approval process.

The bottom line from Delta Associates? “Over a longer time horizon, job growth in the Professional/Business Services, Construction, and Education/Health Services sectors will support steady demand for retail goods.”

OK, folks, now get out there and spend, spend, spend. But, you say, what about federal “sequestration” and other cutbacks?

“The fiscal cutbacks of sequestration are no longer in the headlines,” the report says, “and reduced federal spending has not [not!] been nearly the hardship for the local economy that many analysts predicted.”

And here’s some big news you might be surprised to learn. Delta Associates notes that the federal budget deficit has declined 29 percent since fiscal year 2013. The Notebook wonders why that hasn’t been bigger news.

But let Delta Associates tell it: “The ongoing drop in the deficit since 2009 is unprecedented since the period shortly after World War II, and makes the performance of the Washington metro area economy all the more impressive. While the Federal government is unlikely to resume its historical spending and hiring habits for at least several more years, it is likely to remain a stable source of well-compensated jobs over the long term, and the area’s private sector is growing rapidly enough to support a robust retail environment.”

Did we say, happy New Year?

And just who or what is Delta Associates? It’s been providing consulting, data services and valuation reviews for the local real estate industry for 30 years. Check them out at

■ Replacing Marion Barry. Of course, no one could replace Marion Barry. But someone has to fill out the last two years of the late Ward 8 D.C. Council member’s term.

The D.C. Board of Elections on Monday formally declared Barry’s seat vacant. It set April 28 for the special election. Potential candidates — and we expect a lot of them — can begin picking up petitions sheets on Dec. 8. A candidate must return petitions with at least 500 signatures of Ward 8 voters by Jan. 28.

There are new rumors Barry’s son Christopher may jump into the race, but expect others who have done a lot of community work.

The elections board is also expecting to get a letter from Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser formally saying she intends to resign her Ward 4 council seat on Jan. 2. As soon as she does, the elections board can schedule the same day April 28 for the special election to fill the remaining two years in her term. If Bowser waits and files her letter at the end of December, the elections officials will have to hold a Ward 4 election in May.

Bowser wants to remain an official council member through December. The council has a lot of business — including the soccer stadium plan — to get through before the Christmas recess. Any legislation that doesn’t pass by the end of this month must be reintroduced to the new council after Jan. 2, 2015.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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