(Washington Post) — No, there aren’t huge signing bonuses, or personal concierge services, or the jaw-dropping luxury perks that companies threw at top talent back in the boom days of the ’90s. But with the pall of the Great Recession finally lifting, some Washington area companies are handing out iPads at interviews and rewarding employees with $5,000 referral bonuses and trips to France. As other parts of the United States continue to stagger under nearly double-digit unemployment, large swaths of the Washington region’s economy are beginning to bounce back, even if fitfully, economists say.
After 17 straight months of job losses, the District and its suburbs had nine consecutive months of employment growth through the end of last year, totaling more than 23,000 new positions, according to the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. The last four months of 2010 were particularly strong, although economic forecasters said it could be years before the recovery is fully realized. Some sectors, including construction and manufacturing, continue to face significant slides. With a relatively low unemployment rate of less than 6 percent, the Washington region has long been buoyed by the economic engine that is the federal government. Although the government is helping the recovery, the area’s increasingly diversified economy is paying off: Businesses from a variety of sectors – including tech start-ups, hotels and retailers – have begun to open their wallets and hire, a positive sign, given sharp cuts expected in defense spending, officials said.