The Trump administration just told a whopper about the size of the federal workforce
President Trump on Monday signed an executive order instituting a hiring freeze on all nonmilitary federal employees. At a press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the move “counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.”
In both raw-number and percentage terms, this is an inaccurate statement. According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million employees on the federal payroll as of December. The number has risen slightly since May 2014, when there were roughly 2.7 million federal employees (part of the reason may be an accelerated pace of hiring in anticipation of a new presidential administration). That represents an increase of about 3 percent.
By contrast, the total civilian workforce, excluding federal employees, grew by about 4.9 percent over the same period.
In raw-number terms, the number of federal employees is nearly the same today (2.8 million) as it was when Barack Obama took office (2.79 million). It is also similar to the number of federal employees at the end of the Clinton administration (2.75 million) and lower than at any time during the Reagan administration (when it peaked at 3.15 million).
But as a share of the total civilian workforce, in percentage terms, the federal workforce is smaller than it's been in nearly 70 years.
During World War II, federal workers made up more than 7 percent of the U.S. workforce. But that share has been shrinking steadily since then. Today, less than 2 percent of American workers are employed by the federal government.
Part of that decrease has been offset by gains in state and local government employment. As the number of federal employees has remained relatively flat in recent decades, the number of state and local government workers has ballooned.
One factor allowing the federal workforce to remain steady while the population grows is increased outsourcing of public work to private contractors. While hard numbers are difficult to come by, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal contract spending has been outpacing inflation and growing as a share of total federal spending since 2000.
The hiring freeze was a campaign promise outlined in Trump's “Contract With the American Voter,” which listed a number of proposals to “clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C.” The freeze, it says, is intended to “reduce the federal workforce through attrition.”
Trump Effects Federal Hiring Freeze / Only 2% of US Workforce
As a share of the total civilian workforce, in percentage terms, the federal workforce is smaller than it's been in nearly 70 years. and today is less than 2 percent of American workers are employed by the federal government.
A GAO report found that “governmentwide hiring freezes, regardless of how well they are managed, are not an effective means of controlling federal employment.” The report found that hiring freezes up until that point had “disrupted agency operations and, in some cases, increased costs to the government.”
“The main benefit of a hiring freeze to a new administration is that it gives them a chance to get their own people in place.”
a campaign for Congress to support civil service
National Federation of Federal Employees
We Work for America Everyday
Trump’s federal hiring freeze draws immediate fire from unions
Federal News Radio: Hiring freeze result of Trump team’s review of federal agencies
Outgoing Office of Personnel Management (OPM) chief hits incoming GOP policies on hiring and firing feds
Stars and Stripes: Trump orders hiring freeze for some federal workers
Huffington Post: Donald Trump Announces Federal Hiring Freeze
Unions: Trump's hiring freeze 'disastrous' for public service