COVID-19 Economic Impact

The WDCEP’s COVID-19 Data Hub tracks various economic metrics on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. This information provides quick insight into the impact COVID-19 is having on the District’s economy. For more in-depth analysis please select COVID-19 Impact or Other Resources from the menu below.

Employment Data

The following chart highlights the seasonally adjusted and unadjusted unemployment rate in the District. The unemployment rate has hovered around 5% for the last year, but has recently risen sharply due to the economic effects of COVID-19.

[{"name":"Not Seasonally Adjusted","data":[6.2,6,5.6,5.1,5.2,5.8,5.8,5.5,5.4,5.3,5,5,5.1,5.2,5.9,11.1,8.5,9.1,8.9,8.7]},{"name":"Seasonally Adjusted","data":[5.8,5.8,5.7,5.6,5.5,5.4,5.4,5.3,5.3,5.3,5.3,5.3,5.2,5.1,6,11.7,8.8,8.7,8.5,8.5]},{"name":"U.S. (Seasonally Adjusted)","data":[4,3.8,3.8,3.6,3.6,3.7,3.7,3.7,3.5,3.6,3.5,3.5,3.6,3.5,4.4,14.7,13.3,11.1,10.2,8.4]}]

Source: BLS. *Preliminary

A leading indicator of unemployment is unemployment insurance claims, which reached a peak during the week ending on March 28, 2020 with 15,869 claims. While the initial claims are generally trending down week-over-week, they are still at record highs. During the past 10 years (2009-2019) the previous peak for initial claims was 1,964 for the week ending January 12, 2019.

[{"data":[481,706,594,534,539,508,473,422,452,471,1213,14462,15869,15329,9974,8639,8708,8113,5782,5196,5135,3559,3385,3065,3073,3132,2858,3300,3053,2712,2250,1797,1979,1645,1468,1493],"name":"Initial Claims"}]
[{"data":[7198,7102,7271,7149,7139,7156,7079,7003,7020,6792,6746,7378,17661,31385,42224,47465,52534,58634,65298,68844,70103,70671,72023,72934,72927,72807,72802,72525,73115,72710,72931,70887,69640,68248,66870,65456],"name":"Continued Claims"}]

Source: U.S. Department of Labor (Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Data)

Professional Services is the District’s top private-sector industry with more than 120,000 employees. During the economic shutdown, caused by COVID-19, this sector has grown by 2,400 jobs (August 2019 – August 2020). Meanwhile, the Leisure & Hospitality sector lost nearly half of its jobs during this same time period.

[{"data":[119.5,119.9,120.1,120.3,120.5,120.9,121.3,121.5,121.8,122.4,122.9,123.9,123.4,123.3,124.8,127,123.7,123.6,125.6,123.9],"name":"Seasonally Adjusted"},{"data":[118.5,119.6,119.5,119.8,119.5,121.8,122.7,121.6,120.8,122.7,123.5,124.1,122.6,122.8,123.9,126.2,123.4,124.2,125.9,124.1],"name":"Not Seasonally Adjusted"}]
[{"data":[81.6,81.8,81.8,81.6,81.5,81.8,82,81.8,82.1,81.7,82.1,81.3,81.3,81.9,78.6,36.1,33.6,43.1,47.3,43.7],"name":"Seasonally Adjusted"},{"data":[77.4,79.5,81.8,83.6,83.4,83.6,82.5,81.4,82.7,82.4,81.6,80.4,77.9,79.5,78,36.7,34.5,44,48.3,43.8],"name":"Not Seasonally Adjusted"}]

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (Professional Services = Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services. Leisure & Hospitality = Arts, Entertainment, Recreation and Accommodation & Food Services)

Business Impact

The Business Application graph highlights the number of quarterly business applications submitted for an Employer Identification Number in the District. High-Propensity Business Applications are a subset of all business applications that have a higher likelihood of turning into a business with employees.

[{"data":[971,869,964,963,928,979,954,993,924,924,862,848],"name":"High-Propensity Business Applications"},{"data":[1769,1898,2003,2032,2081,2029,2037,2185,2154,2232,2013,2246],"name":"Other Business Applications"}]

Source: U.S. Census (Business Formation Statistics)

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on numerous sectors of the District’s economy, especially the retail and restaurant industries. The graph below displays the year-over-year (four-week trailing average) sales by District businesses within the retail*, restaurant, and grocery industries. By mid-March consumer behavior had clearly begun to react to COVID-19, nearly two weeks before Mayor Bowser issued a stay-at-home order on March 30. This indicates that consumers made and may continue to make purchasing decisions based on individual feelings on health and safety and not necessarily tied to public policy.


COVID-19 Select Timeline


WHO Issues Global Health Emergency


U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency


WHO Declares COVID-19 a Pandemic


Mayor Bowser issues stay at home order


Mayor Bowser lifts stay at home order. DC enters Phase I reopening.


The District enters Phase II reopening (allowing limited reopenings of non-essential business)

Source: earnest ( *Retail sales exclude certain business categories such as charities, financial, grocery stores, healthcare, restaurants, telecommunication, transportation, and travel. Data is based primarily on regional and national chains.

Construction Activity: Permits

The following graphs examine the number of building construction and alteration permits applied for and approved by the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The first graph shows that 64,574 building permit applications were submitted over the last four quarters, an increase of 0.61% from the preceding four quarters. From these applications, 19,641 construction permits were issued during this same time frame, a 3.55% increase from the previous four quarters. The final graph illustrates the monthly amount of new privately owned housing unit permits that were issued.


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Source: DCRA Agency Dashboard (

[{"data":[1493,1481,1478,1470,1481,1476,1479,1477,1468,1487,1500,1515,1534,1570,1581,1610,1625,1632,1631,1638,1647,1649,1636,1654,1663,1668,1640,1590,1538,1501,1496,1483],"name":"Avg. Monthly (Trailing 12 Months)"},{"data":[1246,1136,1577,1476,1638,1627,1556,1693,1425,1806,1587,1413,1477,1560,1710,1823,1821,1707,1552,1780,1525,1829,1433,1631,1582,1619,1379,1220,1202,1265,1488,1620],"name":"Monthly Totals"}]

Source: DCRA Agency Dashboard ( Type = Construction.

[{"data":[438,441,448,422,404,439,403,395,387,356,339,385,427,483,474,508,557,501,582,586,597,577,544,495,503,452,488,470,444,519,470],"name":"Avg. Monthly (Trailing 12 Months)"},{"data":[87,275,359,63,112,799,30,340,228,1023,662,637,591,954,250,473,698,130,997,384,369,773,269,57,682,336,687,256,393,1025,414],"name":"Monthly Totals"}]

Source: U.S. Census Bureau (Building Permits Survey)

Commercial Real Estate: Office Market

The District’s office market ended 2019 with more than 155 million SF in its inventory, an increase of 3.6 million SF from 2018. Occupied office space set a record in 2019 with 136.2 million SF. While vacancy trends have generally been increasing for the past few years the construction of nearly 12.6 million SF of new office space since 2010 has contributed to this elevated rate. Even with the increase in inventory and office space design trends such as densification and work-from-home options, the District’s occupied SF has increased by 9.6 million SF from 2010 to 2019.

[{"data":[15.4,14.3,12.9,13.2,13.5,14.4,15,14.6,15,18.3,19,19.3],"name":"Vacant SF*"},{"data":[126.6,128.5,130.5,131.3,132.5,132.2,133,134.2,136,136.2,136.5,136.8],"name":"Occupied SF"}]

Source: CoStar (Existing office buildings greater than 10,000 SF). *includes sublet space


Source: CoStar (Existing office buildings greater than 10,000 SF). *includes sublet space

COVID-19 Impact

COVID-19 Impact Factors
This report provides information on DC’s demographic and economic sectors as it relates to the health and economic impact of COVID-19.

Census COVID-19 Impact Report
This report provides demographic and economic data for every U.S. state and the District of Columbia.

DC Metro COVID-19 Indicators
This report provides udpated COVID-19 health data for the metropolitan area.

Economic Vulnerability Index
The Economic Vulnerability Index was developed by Chmura to meausre the potential impact on the U.S. and state economies.

Other Indicators

Inclusive Prosperity Dashboard
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development (DMPED) created an inclusive prosperity dashboard — a manageable set of metrics that collectively define and help monitor inclusive prosperity in DC.

Economic Intelligence Dashboard
DMPED’s dashbaord provides various datasets focused on DC’s economic development priorities to help drive positive change and build good government.

Monthly Economic Indicators
The Office of the Chief Financial Officer provides timely information on DC’s general economic trends such as employment, housing sales, personal income, and population.

DCRA Agency Dashboard
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ (DCRA) dashboard provides updates on permit applications & issued, business & professional licenses, customer service requests, amongst other metrics.