In Focus: Where the Federal Workforce Counts

As agencies scramble to determine which employees might be subject to furlough and for how long, states are bracing for the economic fallout from sequestration. Government’s budget crunch sometimes is viewed as solely a Washington problem, but its impact also will be felt disproportionately in other parts of the country where the federal workforce is omnipresent.

Among a federal civilian workforce of than 2 million, Washington, D.C., ranks No. 4 with about 165,000 employees, trailing California (242,000), Texas (187,000) and Virginia (171,000), according to data compiled by Janet Kopenhaver, the Washington representative for Federally Employed Women. States with the fewest feds include Delaware (5,300), Vermont (6,500) and New Hampshire (8,000).

Drawing on data from the Office of Personnel Management and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, FEW breaks down the population of federal civilians (where they work) and retirees (where they live) by congressional district and provides the information to lawmakers each year. “These statistics are very important to legislators and their staffs on Capitol Hill so that they will know how many federal workers and retirees are employed and live in their state and district,” Kopenhaver said in a news release. “So the next time lawmakers say that federal workers are overpaid, wasteful and not productive, and that furloughs and/or layoffs should be implemented, let them remember that they are referring to their own constituents and their livelihoods.” 

At a 2012 news conference releasing projections that sequestration would cost the nation’s economy 2.14 million jobs, two big city mayors sounded the alarm. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said the cuts “would likely put Arizona in a recession.”

Especially in states with a significant military presence, furloughs and spending cuts loom large. In March, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter sent letters to the governors of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington, warning that spending cuts at military installations could have a ripple effect on local economies.

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