New Developments in Federal Employment

by Elda Schwartz

(First in a Two Part Series)

In looking at the employment market in the United States one of the striking characteristics is the aging baby boomers, some 77 million strong who are approaching retirement age. These numbers have an effect on the federal job market, which is the largest employer in the country with 1.8 million workers. Over the next few years it has been estimated that nearly 150,000 jobs will be replaced in the federal government.

The http://www.ourpublicservice.org ">Partnership for Public Service a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to revitalizing federal government service has just published a new report in February 2005. The new report http://www.ourpublicservice.org/publications3735/publications_show.htm?doc_id=260717" target="_parent"> "Where the Jobs are: The Continuing Growth of Federal Job Opportunities" is the most comprehensive guide to date for job seekers interested in federal service. It lists the professional fields and the numbers of positions likely to be filled in 24 major agencies representing 95 percent of the federal government. According to the study, Security is the area in which the federal government will be making the biggest hiring push in the next two years. In that time frame, the government expects to fill 37,515 security and enforcement related positions from criminal investigators to police officers and airport screeners. Next on the government's most wanted list are jobs in
Public Health (physicians, nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians - 25,756 new hires in the next two years)
Engineering/Sciences (physicists, chemists, biologists, botanists, veterinarians - 23,806 new hires
Program Management /Administrative Jobs (public affairs specialists, human resources specialists, Congressional affairs officers - 17,353 expected)
Accounting/Budget/Business (IRS revenue agents and tax examiners, contract managers - 12,985 new hires)

Despite the number of predicted new federal hires, the number of private contractors has also increased during the Bush presidency. As a federal jobseeker it is important to be informed about this initiative to understand the big picture and issues affecting federal employment. According to reports published by the Partnership for Public Service, over the last decade or so, most public-private competitions have occurred in the Defense Department, which employs 2.1 million civilian and military workers.

President Bush wants more agencies to follow the Defense Department's lead and allow the private sector to compete for work that does not have to be done by federal employees. President Bush believes that allowing private contractors to bid for such work spurs efficiency and lowers costs whether or not the jobs stay in-house. Under his "competitive sourcing" initiative, 850,000 government jobs have been identified as commercial in nature -- from janitorial services to national park archaeologists to computer network design. Agencies must allow companies to bid for work representing at least 50 percent of those jobs, or 425,000 positions, over the next few years if they are to earn the top rating on the Office of Management and Budget's management scorecard.

The push/pull of private versus federal will continue but there will still be a large number of federal positions that will not disappear altogether. In figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management the average federal employee earns a salary comparable or better than his counterpart in private industry. The comparison below does not include locality pay or take into account the differences in length of time on the job. It does indicate that the government tries to be competitive.