15 Government-Heavy (and Recession-Resistant) Cities

In some areas of the country, government jobs are keeping employment up.

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Cambridge, Mass.

Government employees per capita: 0.15 Cambridge is known for famous institutions of higher learning like Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While private, these universities draw substantial public investment in the form of research dollars. Jobs come with that public-sector investment. In 2008, the federal government was the ninth-biggest employer in Cambridge. According to the local Chamber of Commerce, one sixth of all jobs are in higher education.

Alexandria, Va.

Government employees per capita: 0.10 Alexandria is less than a half-hour commute from Washington, which makes it a major bedroom community for federal government employees. In all of Northern Virginia, there are 2.5 million people, a large portion of the entire Washington, DC metro area in which 226,600 people work in government jobs.


Government employees per capita: 0.08 As the ultimate American government town, Washington has weathered the recession better than almost any major city. The Washington metro area (which includes Alexandria and Arlington) saw its unemployment actually increased to 6.6 percent this year from May to June. But the Brookings report finds the Washington area to be the tenth-strongest for employment in the country, as the federal government expanded and created new positions. Washington also has a whole cottage industry of lobbyists and consultants who profit from the increased government activity. For example, Kotkin points out that Washington's hotel industry has not had the vacancies seen in other cities because hopeful business leaders and local politicians have flocked to the city in search of their piece of the pie.

Irvine, Calif.

Government employees per capita: 0.08 The biggest employer in Irvine, the third-largest city in Southern California's Orange County, is the University of California-Irvine. Irvine's unemployment rate isn't good—its Orange County metro area had an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent in June 2009. But the California-wide rate was 11.6 percent.

Arlington, Va.

Government employees per capita: 0.07 Arlington was part of the District of Columbia until 1846, when Congress returned the land to Virginia. Arlington is still only one stop away from D.C. on the Washington Metro subway system. Arlington is also home to the Pentagon and its 23,000 employees.


Government employees per capita: 0.07 Atlanta has the corporate headquarters of well-known companies like Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, but the city's public sector is robust as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services) is based in Atlanta.

Bellevue, Wash.

Government employees per capita: 0.07

Bellevue is a wealthy suburb of Seattle, and the Seattle/Bellevue metro area has one of the greatest concentrations of government employees in the country. Right across Lake Washington from Bellevue is the University of Washington, which employs over 30,000 people.According to the City of Bellevue Office of Economic Development, from 2000 to 2007, government jobs grew at an annual average rate of 2.68 percent, while manufacturing and retail fell by 3.72 and 1.74 percent, respectively.


Government employees per capita: 0.06 Boston is not as much of a government town as its neighbor Cambridge, but with 6 percent of its population working in government, Boston still has one of the highest rates of public-sector employment in the country. The Boston metro area (which includes Cambridge) has fared better than most other metro areas. The Brookings report ranked it as the 22nd-strongest area for employment out of 100 metro areas.

Pasadena, Calif.

Government employees per capita: 0.06 In some ways, this is the West Coast Cambridge. The California Institute of Technology is one of Pasadena's biggest employers. Caltech creates an intellectual climate and provides a base of highly skilled graduates that draw public research employers to the city. For example, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located in Pasadena.