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Report: D.C. area leads the nation for AI-related jobs and Arlington plays a supporting role

AI-related jobs in the D.C. area vs. Bay Area (courtesy of JLL)

The D.C. area has surpassed the Bay Area in AI-related job postings, according to a recent report.

These new jobs are a clear sign of how the emerging technology is already impacting Arlington and its neighbors, per a Tuesday report by the real estate company JLL.

The report predicts the region’s numerous data centers will have to undergo AI-focused upgrades to meet industry requirements and notes there is already a surge in AI lobbying in response to potential regulations.

“While the Bay Area has long been known as a hotbed for AI product development, tech companies are navigating economic uncertainties by scaling back on their workforce,” the report says. It says the D.C. metro area had 1,110 AI-related postings as of December, a notch above 1,076 in the Bay.

“Meanwhile, Metro DC’s tech ecosystem is less susceptible to market fluctuations, stabilized by federal spending and government contracts,” JLL wrote.

Of these jobs, only 155 list Arlington as their location, however, JLL Researcher Kate Paine chalks this up to its proximity to D.C. She tells ARLnow that many Arlington employers recruit from out of state and often list the location as “Washington, D.C.”

“There is nuance in the data and the way jobs are posted that might not accurately reflect the reality,” Paine said.

Farther out, there are more AI-related job postings, or 437, in Fairfax County and the city of Fairfax.

The report says the D.C. area has several industries driving demand for AI specialists, including defense, health care and finance — sectors that are well-represented in Arlington’s startup scene.

While the D.C. area and the Bay are in close competition, New York City, the region with the next-highest AI labor demand, comes in a distant third with 574 job postings.

Beyond creating jobs, AI is expected to impact the region’s data centers. Northern Virginia has more data centers than anywhere else in the world and — while last year saw a surge in data center leasing — JLL says these centers still need to adapt to meet AI-specific requirements, including higher power consumption.

“As the largest data center market in the world by a magnitude of 3x, Northern Virginia will be at the international epicenter of the AI-fueled demand curve in the near-term and long-term,” the JLL report says.

Northern Virginia data centers (photo courtesy of JLL)

AI lobbying is also on the rise as lawmakers — including Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer — try to pass a slew of laws regulating the industry. The number of entities seeking to influence AI policy ballooned in 2023 — from 129 in the first quarter of that year to 335 in the second quarter, according to JLL.

“The future of AI will undoubtedly hinge on the regulatory environment, which is unknown territory currently,” the report says. “Further complicating the legal landscape [are] the numerous copyright disputes making their way through the judicial system. As a result, lobbying firms are racing to represent the industry.”

Companies, nonprofits, universities, trade groups and other organizations reported spending $569 million in federal AI lobbying during the first three quarters of last year, the report estimates.

The region’s place as a lead location for people with AI backgrounds has been several years in the making. In the last five years, AI-related job postings in the D.C. area have more than tripled, JLL found in a fall 2023 report.

While recent years have seen companies such as Amazon establish major presences in Arlington, the fall report noted that the Pentagon is also investing huge amounts of money into AI.

The Department of Defense requested $1.8 billion in its 2024 budget for capabilities, workforce development and data management efforts related to the rapidly developing technology. And that’s not to mention demand from the intelligence community.

JLL found that nearly half of all AI-related positions in the D.C. area required clearance for top secret or sensitive compartmented information, as of last fall.

Only 15% of AI job postings in the region were remote — potentially good news for places like Arlington, which is adapting to an economic landscape in which many remote workers have been leaving for places with lower costs of living.

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