Federal Government Sheds 12,000 Jobs in October


The federal government lost 12,000 jobs in October, continuing a downward trend in federal employment, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The government shutdown, however, did not have “any discernible” impact on overall employment, hours or earnings last month, the report said. “Federal employees on furlough during the partial government shutdown were still considered employed in the payroll survey because they worked or received pay for the pay period that included the 12th of the month,” stated the jobs report, which the Labor Department typically publishes on the first Friday of each month. The shutdown, which lasted from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16, delayed the publication of the September and October figures.

Furloughed and excepted federal employees – workers who remained on the job during the shutdown – received back pay after the shutdown ended.

Federal jobs, excluding the Postal Service, decreased by about 8,000 in October, while the Postal Service lost roughly 4,000 jobs for the month. Government at all levels – federal, state and local – overall lost 8,000 jobs last month, despite 7,000 more jobs at the state level.

The U.S. economy overall (total nonfarm payroll employment) added 204,000 jobs in October, and unemployment was 7.3 percent, a slight increase from 7.2 percent in September. Workers who reported being temporarily laid off, including furloughed federal employees, however, increased by 448,000 last month. For the purposes of the October household survey, federal workers were classified as “unemployed on temporary layoff” because of the shutdown; those employees will be classified as employed in the November report which will affect this month’s unemployment rate. Job growth in October occurred in the leisure and hospitality, retail trade, professional and technical services, manufacturing, and health care industries.

In September, the federal government shed 6,000 jobs. The long-term data reveal a federal workforce that is slowly shrinking: The federal government has lost 94,000 jobs over the past 12 months, 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 Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com)

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