Federal Workforce Levels Off After Gradual Decline

Jeron/Shutterstock.com

The federal workforce did not grow between July and August, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Uncle Sam did not add or lose any jobs during the last month, remaining flat at around 2.7 million civilian employees, which includes Postal Service workers. The country added 169,000 total nonfarm jobs in August because of growth in the private sector, particularly in retail trade and health care, but experienced a decline in public sector employment across the federal and state governments combined. Local government is thriving, adding 20,000 jobs between July and August. Unemployment is at 7.3 percent, little changed from the previous month.

The longer-term figures reveal a federal workforce that is slowly shrinking: There are 71,000 fewer federal government jobs in August 2013 than in August 2012, according to BLS. The civilian workforce, excluding the Postal Service, has hovered around 2.1 million since 2012, with the most federal employees in California; Texas; Virginia; and Washington, D.C.

Sequestration, an increasing number of federal retirements and hiring freezes at many agencies have contributed to the reduction in federal jobs. The size of the federal workforce would grow by 6,180 employees under President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget. The Homeland Security, Justice and Veterans Affairs departments would account for the estimated 0.3 percent increase in full-time civilian employees in executive branch agencies between this year and next, according to the budget blueprint. The administration would add staff to boost medical care for veterans as well as hire employees to work on cybersecurity, background checks for guns, border protection and immigration reform. But it remains to be seen whether Congress will approve those proposals.

The size of the government’s total workforce, including military service members, the Postal Service, and the legislative and judicial branches, actually is projected to decrease under the president’s fiscal 2014 budget by 3.6 percent, from about 4.3 million to 4.1 million employees. The reduction largely would be due to fewer Postal Service employees as a result of buyouts and fewer military service members because of the force reduction in Afghanistan.

Many congressional Republicans, including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, want to decrease the federal workforce through attrition, which means hiring fewer employees to replace those who leave the government. Ryan’s plan, for example, proposes cutting the workforce by 10 percent through attrition by 2015.

(Image via Jeron/Shutterstock.com)

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