Graying of the federal workforce continues, report says

The federal workforce is getting older and wiser, but unless workforce planning takes hold, agencies will be left with skills gaps, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office.

Nearly three-quarters of the federal workforce is now over the age of 40, according to CBO's report, "Changes in Federal Civilian Employment: An Update." The May report is the latest in periodic updates of CBO's analysis of governmentwide trends in federal civilian employment identified in its 1996 memorandum, "Changes in Federal Civilian Employment." The last update was issued in June 1999.

"If the federal government continues its recent efforts to limit employment, the aging of the workforce will likely continue," the report said. The CBO data bolsters General Accounting Office reports that urge federal agencies to use succession planning and to train and develop existing staff to make up for anticipated gaps in skills that retiring workers will leave behind.

The report's analysis of workforce data from 1985 to 2000 also suggests that the federal workforce is becoming more skilled, more educated and more white-collar. In 2000, 87 percent of federal civilian employees held jobs in white-collar occupations and 40 percent held advanced degrees, compared with 79 percent and 30 percent respectively in 1985.

The shift away from blue-collar jobs to professional and administrative positions can be attributed to Defense Department downsizing, automation and the outsourcing of support positions to the private sector, the report said.

As a result, the federal government may see a demand for more highly trained personnel to manage contracts and to oversee highly technical information technology systems, the report said.

From 1985 through 2000, the federal workforce declined by 19 percent, or a little less than a half million employees. The total number of federal employees fell from 2.3 million in 1985 to 1.8 million in 2000.

CBO's figures don't include the hundreds of thousands of temporary workers hired for the 2000 decennial census, the government's contract workforce or workforce data on intelligence agencies.

The largest drops in employment were at the Defense Department, which saw a 37 percent decline in civilian employment from 1985 to 2000. Employment among all other federal agencies decreased by 2.5 percent.

Trends in employment among federal agencies varied. A few agencies saw percentage reductions that were higher than Defense's. For example, the Office of Personnel Management reduced its ranks by 45 percent while the General Services Administration saw a 49 percent employment decline over the 1985-2000 period.

The report attributed workforce reductions at the Defense Department to decreased workloads in a post-Cold War era. But at other agencies, the more streamlined workforces were the result of tighter budgets and efforts to improve program management, CBO said.

The Justice Department was the only agency that experienced an increase in employment over the specified period. The agency workforce nearly doubled from 62,900 to 125,300 over the 15-year time frame, due in large part to efforts to fight drug-related crimes, the report said.

The report chronicled employment trends by region and state during the 15-year period, noting that the largest job cuts came in the eastern U.S., where more than half of all federal civilian employees work.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.