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Federal Spending Back on the Increase?

Federal spending is back on the upswing. Or, at least it is according to the President’s budget which shows an increase of 7% percent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 (October 2014 through September 30, 2015) compared with the prior year.[1] 

The President’s Budget has federal spending growing on average 5.4 percent a year from FY2015 through FY2020 with national defense increasing essentially 0 percent.[2] Although slower than the 6.6 percent annual average growth from FY2000 through the peak in FY2011, the return to some growth in spending is good news for states and metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) that are dependent on federal contract spending.

We’re not out of the woods yet. A January 2015 Congressional Budget Office report indicates that defense and nondefense funding are equal to or below the FY 2015 budget caps,[3] but the President’s Budget for FY 2016  ignores the caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and modified by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.  If the caps are exceeded, a sequestration will reduce federal discretionary spending by approximately $139 billion in FY2016 below the President’s Budget request.[4] About 64 percent of the reduction will occur in defense spending based on current laws.

So which metro area economies are most dependent on revenues derived from contract work for the federal government? Which ones are most at-risk if we see another round of sequestration? Chmura Economics & Analytics took a look at federal contract spending data and assigned it a metro geography based on where the awarded firm performed the work and adjusted it for time of performance since some contracts are awarded for work that is performed over a number of years.

Out of 381 MSAs in the country, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA topped the list of federal spending with $71 billion in FY 2014. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX was a far second with $19.3 billion, and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA was third at $14.8 billion in FY 2014.

A better way to assess the risk of a region to potential cuts in federal spending is to consider the concentration relative to employment. From that perspective, Idaho Falls, ID ranked the highest ($47,691 per employee); followed by California-Lexington Park, Maryland ($39,940); Amarillo, Texas ($31,407); and Huntsville, Alabama ($30,799).

The interactive map and table below show the dependence of all MSAs in the nation on federal spending.

Research support was provided by Patrick Clapp.

U.S. Metropolitan Areas Ranked by Spending Per Job

Rank MSA DoD Spending (M) Total Spending (M) Spending Per Job
Source: Chmura Economics & Analytics, JobsEQ, FedSpendTop. Employment data as of 2015q2, Spending data FY2014.


[1] President’s Budget FY 2016, Table S-1

[2] President’s Budget FY 2016, Table 28-1 Net Outlays by Function, Category, and Program

[3] https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/49889-sequestration.pdf

[4] President’s Budget FY 2016, Table 5.6—Budget Authority for Discretionary Programs: 1976–2020

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