How Did the Federal Hiring Freeze Impact Jobs? The Raw Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story.

No one was surprised when President Trump imposed a hiring freeze. Across many government agencies, the broad freeze brought hiring to a screeching halt. As the freeze was lifted and agency heads were given more authority to decide when and whether to fill jobs, most observers of government expected hiring to get back to normal. After all, most hiring freezes have been little more than political theater. Typically, they are intended to address a short-term money crunch or to send a message to administration supporters that the government is being reined in.

So – was this one political theater? Did it actually make a difference in the number of people on the government payroll? Or is everything back to normal (at least when it comes to hiring in the federal sector)? The most current publicly available data comes from OPM’s excellent Fedscope site. Fedscope provides historical data and current employment numbers through the end of September. If we look at raw numbers, the federal workforce has dropped from 2,093,868 employees at the end of December 2016 to 2,087,747 by December 2017, which breaks down to loss of 6,121 (0.29%) employees — not a huge impact for a two-million person workforce. But this is one of those cases in which the raw numbers can be misleading.

The top line numbers include both permanent and temporary employees. During the spring and summer, we typically see large increases in the number of temporary workers as a result of seasonal work. When we take the temporary jobs out of the mix and look only at the permanent workforce, we see a different picture.

The permanent workforce of 1,962,965 dropped by 15,917 to 1,947,048. That is a decrease of 0.81 percent — still not a huge drop, but significant. The picture changes even more when we stop looking at the total government numbers and start considering shifts on an agency-by-agency level, where we see some numbers that are predictable and some that are surprising.

For a look at those numbers for cabinet level and large agencies, read the rest of this post on The Spark – the ICF blog.