The Pentagon may lower the number of mandatory furlough days it's requiring employees to take, but the Washington, D.C., economy will see little relief if it does, says a leading regional economist.
As the Defense Department grappled with mandatory spending cuts, it has reduced the number of planned furlough days from 22 to 11, with the possibility of further reductions.
Pentagon officials told the Associated Press this week that the agency will likely reduce the amount of unpaid leave by up to five days, down from the current plan of 11 furlough days.
But a reduction in furlough days will be scant relief for a region stunted by government spending cuts since those cuts are being applied to other areas of the budget, argues Prof. Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.
"The cutbacks are still there," he told the Washington Examiner. "Federal agencies are saving money in ways that are different than expected, by leaving jobs vacant or hiring people at lower wages."
With these federal cuts, called sequestration, still firmly in place, an estimated $7 billion to 8 billion will be slashed from the Washington economy, Fuller said, manifesting itself through a shrinking federal workforce and a weak recovery.
"Houston and Dallas, which are about our size, are doing triple the job growth that we are," Fuller said. "But we haven't crashed, so people come to the conclusion that it wasn't as bad as we thought."