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DC Closes Out 2013 With Weak Employment Figures

The District’s jobless rate is on the rise as a new chief financial officer prepares to take over the city’s finances.

Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi’s parting gifts to Mayor Vince Gray include some coal for his stocking.

In one of his last acts as DC’s chief financial officer, Gandhi on Monday delivered a monthly report of economic indicators showing that DC’s employment rate is falling, based on October figures. Compared to the previous year, the District lost 500 jobs, the number of employed District residents fell 2.7 percent, and the unemployment rate ticked up a bit to 8.9 percent.

Gray’s opponents are sure to use the report as a blunt object to damage his reelection bid, as jobs remain a central issue in the current mayor’s race. 

Jobs in the federal government sector dropped by 6,000 in the past year, according to Gandhi’s monthly report. A more troubling number showed a loss of 300 jobs in health and education, two sources that had been strong in DC. Good news came from the hospitality and leisure sectors, where jobs rose 6.8 percent. There were more jobs in legal services, finance, and insurance, according to the report.

Employment fell 1.3 percent in the metropolitan area, according to Gandhi’s report.

The good news came on the revenue side. Tax revenues are looking good. Gandhi expects real property tax revenue to increase by close to 5 percent in 2014. He projects sales tax and individual income tax increases, as well.

Gandhi is serving his final days as CFO, a job he has held since 2000. Gandhi’s successor, Jeffrey DeWitt, who was CFO of Phoenix, Arizona, has spent the past few weeks visiting offices and meeting staff. DeWitt has told Gandhi he doesn’t expect to replace any top staff when he takes over.

The matter of DeWitt’s salary has been bouncing between the District and Congress, but it seems to have been resolved. The search committee that recommended DeWitt offered him $250,000, according to staff familiar with the negotiations. But the District could not pay him that salary without a change to the city charter, which requires congressional approval. Gandhi’s salary is just under $200,000.

Congress balked at the $250,000, according to sources in Gandhi’s office. The city council passed a bill to pay the CFO as much as $230,000, in line with the vice president’s salary. DeWitt could not be reached for comment, but sources say he’s accepted the $230,000 compromise. He was getting paid $176,000 in Phoenix.

Gray sent the bill to Congress, which passed it last week. Gray’s office says the bill awaits President Obama’s signature. Hopefully it will become law by January 2, when DeWitt is scheduled to start working.

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