15 Government-Heavy (and Recession-Resistant) Cities

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


Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Government employees per capita: 0.06 The planned city of Thousand Oaks is one of the largest cities in Ventura County, in the northwest corner of the Los Angeles metro area. This county has the thirteenth-highest per-capita income in California out of 58 counties, according to census data. While much of this wealth comes from local biotech companies like Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks, the Navy is a big local employer. The Naval Air Warfare Center and the Naval Construction Battalion Center each employ more than 5,000 people in Ventura County.


Government employees per capita: 0.05 Tampa shows up on the list because, as home to MacDill Air Force Base, it is one of the biggest military towns in the country. Despite this steady employment, Tampa has the misfortune of being in the state that was arguably hit hardest by the housing collapse. "Government employment alone cannot keep metro areas afloat" if bigger problems arise, says Berube.

Richardson, Texas

Government employees per capita: 0.05 Bill Sproull, president of the Richardson Economic Development Partnership, says he doesn't think of this Dallas suburb as a government town. Rather, it's a hub for the telecommunications industry. "We have a larger daytime population than nighttime population," Sproull explains, because of the thousands who commute in to work at the tech companies. But local employees and residents are also attracted by the University of Texas at Dallas, which is actually located in Richardson. The university, with more than 14,000 students, is "a long-term gem in our backyard," Sproull says.


Government employees per capita: 0.05 One of the biggest employers in the Seattle metro area is the Department of Defense. The area is home to McChord Air Force Base, Fort Lewis, and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. While unemployment in Seattle rose by 4.7 percentage points from June 2008 to June 2009, it's doing better than regional neighbor Portland, Ore., where unemployment rose by 6.3 percent percentage points.

San Francisco

Government employees per capita: 0.05 While Sacramento is California's capital, San Francisco is arguably as important of a government town. Of the San Francisco Bay Area's 4.2 million residents, 227,531 are employed by the state government of California, according to the San Francisco Center for Economic Development. The second-biggest employer is the University of California-San Francisco, with 18,000 employees. Unemployment in the area stood at 10.3 percent in May, below the state average of 11.6 percent.


Government employees per capita: 0.05 Orlando is a major research center for the military. It is the focal point for the development of training simulation technology. Like Tampa, Orlando is a victim of the bad Floridian economy. Employment in Orlando recently has actually been doing worse than average for the state, with a 5.1 percent increase in unemployment from June 2008 to June 2009. But that's still a lot better than average across the nation.