Trump’s White House Cited a Nonexistent Reason for Freezing Federal Hiring

White House press secretary Sean Spicer referred to a recent "dramatic expansion of the federal workforce" in a press conference. White House press secretary Sean Spicer referred to a recent "dramatic expansion of the federal workforce" in a press conference. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

One of Donald Trump’s first actions as US president was to sign an executive order (pdf) to freeze non-military federal hiring. The move, White House press secretary Sean Spicer explained at a Jan. 23 press briefing, “counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.”

In reality, no such dramatic expansion occurred.

The federal government employs nearly 2.2 million people, accounting for about 1.4% of all employment in the country. That makes it the nation’s largest employer (Wal-mart is second). It’s true that during US president Barack Obama’s eight years in office, the federal government added a little over 120,000 jobs, but that’s about 60,000 fewer than were added during former US president George W. Bush’s administration, and employment by the federal government as share of all US employment is relatively low compared to most of the last 70 years. (The spikes in the following chart represent workers brought on temporarily to conduct the US decennial census.)

The Washington Examiner reported prior to Trump’s inauguration that, beyond the hiring freeze, the administration would look at making serious cuts in federal government employment. The Examiner suggested the possibility of staff cuts of up to 20% in some departments.

During his campaign, Trump promised to protect military, public safety, and public health jobs from a hiring freeze. (The actual executive order only exempts military and and public safety hirings from the freeze, with no mention of public health.) About 75% of all federal jobs are in those three areas, so that leaves a little over 500,000 federal jobs still vulnerable to potential cuts. An across-the-board 20% cut in all those jobs would mean the federal government would lose about 100,000 jobs.

A more likely scenario is Trump targeting jobs in a limited number of agencies that previous statements suggest Trump thinks are bloated. These agencies include the departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency. If Trump were to cut employment by 20% at those agencies, it would mean the loss of over 25,000 federal jobs.

A reduction in federal government employment wouldn’t just affect Washington. Only 15% of federal government workers work in the Washington DC area. The pain of federal government job loss would likely be felt across the US.

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

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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