DC's Tech Industry and COVID: Where Do Large Businesses Stand?

Technology is a major driver of employment and innovation in the Washington, D.C., metro area. The city and its suburbs account for 31,000 tech jobs, a figure that underestimates the influence of the industry. If we were to include other types of tech-based jobs in D.C., such as life sciences, healthcare,  and education (D.C. is Blackboard's headquarters), figures would see a strong bump.

After COVID-19 shut the country down last year, primary industries in D.C., such as tourism and hospitality, took a massive hit. In the tech space, most industry leaders appear to have been able to pivot and continue operations.

Let's take a look at how tech giants in the D.C. area have performed before, during, and what they will look like after the pandemic.

Before COVID-19

Northern Virginia, often dubbed the "Silicon Valley of the East," is the nation's largest data hub. But it's not just data hubs. One of the industry's earliest pioneers, AOL, was founded in Dulles, VA. Over time the DMV has drawn hundreds of tech companies and been an increasingly attractive location for many tech sectors, especially those in the cybersecurity space. More than 150 tech companies currently maintain a presence in the metro area, and many land multi-year government contracts, providing employees a certain level of job security.

During the pandemic

Throughout the U.S., the pandemic took a huge toll on leased tech office space as tech companies scaled back in-person operations. D.C. was an outlier. In fact, the District led the nation for new tech leasing activity. Last summer, 1.456 million square feet in office space was leased in Q2 by D.C.-area tech firms, up 55 percent from 2019's Q2.

Furthermore, IT job postings between August 2019 and July 2020 continued to demonstrate strong growth. Research by CompTIA highlighted a whopping 260,025 IT jobs were added to the D.C. job market between August 2019 and July 2020. Despite the pandemic causing significant economic disruption, this was an increase of 34,000 tech jobs. Large hiring employers cited in the study included General Dynamics, Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC, CACI, Perspecta, Northrop Grumman, Deloitte, ManTech, and IBM. Median salary was cited by CompTIA as $109,890.

The region is generally poised for tremendous growth. Even in a pandemic, large tech companies don't appear to be going anywhere; all signs indicate they want an operational presence in D.C. to be close to where lucrative federal contracts are found.

Looking toward the future

In February 2021, Washington, D.C., was one of the top metro areas to record the highest month-over-month gains in IT postings and this trend is likely to continue.

  • Cybersecurity jobs are plentiful as other companies shift to remote work options and the U.S. government continues to need to secure its virtual properties.
  • AI is a tech niche to watch in D.C., expect big future growth here.
  • Software developers and technical/digital solutions are strong job market segments.
  • Amazon's HQ2 project in Pentagon City will add jobs.

Companies providing these services will also compete for government contracts. If you are looking to land a tech position in D.C., prospects look good. As we move toward a "new normal," it is anticipated jobs in the region will continue to be added.

Remote work is still very much a possibility once the pandemic passes, but unlike other cities, it's less probable for full-time positions. It will probably be more of a hybrid situation for employees working for large companies. USA Today reports the D.C. region is in the top 5 percent in jobs able to go remote, but the abundance of government-related jobs "may insulate it from an exodus of workers." Large employers may prefer their teams to stay in close proximity to federal agencies.

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects IT jobs to grow 11 percent through 2029 and the security space 31 percent. This is pretty solid growth when compared to other occupations. Since many of the big players occupying the technology space find D.C. to be an attractive hub with opportunities for expansion, all things considered, signs indicate technology professionals will find plenty of prospects.

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