White House officials have had varying stances on the size of the federal workforce during the Trump administration.
Last year, the mantra of “drain the swamp” seemed to rule the day, with officials directing agencies to find ways to reduce their payrolls and offer buyouts and early retirement. But with the release of President Trump’s management agenda and reorganization plan, officials softened that rhetoric, with some even going so far as to say that the reorganization effort was never intended to reduce the size of the federal workforce.
Whether or not the administration’s goal remains to reduce the number of federal employees, it is coming to fruition. According to statistics from the Office of Personnel Management, 12 of the 15 Cabinet-level departments have seen their total numbers of employees drop since Trump took office. Between December 2016 and March 2018, the most recent data available, the federal workforce shrunk by 18,862 employees.
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By sheer number of employees, the Agriculture Department has seen the most departures since Trump took office, with its workforce falling by 4,312 workers to 83,148. The Health and Human Services Department lost 3,682 employees in the first 15 months of the administration, and the Justice Department’s payroll fell by 3,461 people.
But on a percentage basis, the Education Department has the lost the most employees during the Trump administration, as nearly 13 percent of its workforce has left the department. The State Department lost 9 percent of its workers between December 2016 and March 2018, while the Labor Department workforce fell by 8 percent.
There are a few exceptions to the trend of shrinking agency workforces. Two Cabinet-level departments grew in size since December 2016. Not surprisingly, the Homeland Security Department gained a net 7,249 workers as of March. The department houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, two agencies where the White House has pushed for hiring surges.
The Veterans Affairs Department also has seen measurable increases in staffing, growing by 6,505 employees over 15 months. That came despite the enactment of a law that the White House and Republican lawmakers have touted as a successful tool to fire employees who either perform poorly or have engaged in misconduct.
The Treasury Department saw a modest increase of 1,106 employees from December 2016 to March 2018, bringing its total workforce to 95,565 workers.
A couple of notable shifts among non-Cabinet level independent agencies include a loss of 1,011 employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, and a decrease of 1,877 workers at the Social Security Administration.
Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration has staffed up by more than 50 percent, growing by 2,271 employees to a total workforce of 6,462 as of last March.
To see how much your department’s workforce has shrunk or grown during the Trump administration, view the chart below:
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the total number of employees at the Agriculture Department.