The federal workforce appears to be immune to the country’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, which has left 14 million Americans out of work.
Civilian unemployment has mushroomed, sticking above 9 percent for months, although many experts put the real figure in the 18-20 percent range. Meanwhile, the number of federal employees has grown 12 percent since the official start of the recession in December 2007, MSNBC reports, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Office of Personnel Management also estimates that there was a 14.8 percent increase in executive branch employees — that’s about 275,000 more — between September 2007 and June of 2011. That number does not include the Central Intelligence Agency and a few other government agencies.At the same time, payroll employment in the United States dipped by nearly 5 percent, says MSNBC, proclaiming the federal headcount recession proof.
Consequently, the Washington-northern Virginia metropolitan area posted an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent in September — a full three percentage points below the national average. In addition to Virginia and Maryland, home to many federal workers in and around the nation’s capital, California and Texas also rank among the top four states for federal jobs.
Some GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, have pledged to cut the federal workforce if elected. Romney described the Defense Department as “bloated to the point of dysfunction,” while Paul proposed eliminating five Cabinet departments for a total of some 156,000 fewer jobs.
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved Rep. Mike Mulvaney’s bill on Thursday to cap the number of government hires at one employee for every three who retire or leave.
Aiming for a 10 percent reduction in the number of federal employees by Oct. 1, 2014, the South Carolina Republican said that the bill, if passed, would “boost private sector employment by slowing the explosive growth of the public sector.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also is set to release new data on Friday that is expected to show a total of 95,000 jobs were added in October. This would still translate into 6.5 million fewer jobs for the total non-farm payroll than at the start of the recession.
The biggest increase in government employment since the start of the recession came in the area of defense, with 109,000 jobs. This includes hiring by the military services, as well as the Department of Defense.
The Department of Veterans Affairs ranked second, with more than 60,000 jobs, followed by the Department of Homeland Security with 31,000.