Is the Federal Civilian Workforce Really Growing? Some Important Context

Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), recently released its latest analysis of the executive branch’s civilian government workforce, and it shows a modest increase between 2004 to 2012. However, the GAO’s analysis does not take into account workforce reductions of around 70,000 in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When the 28,000 full-time equivalent reductions from 2011 to 2012 are included, there has been a contraction of the federal civilian workforce of around 100,000 in the last three years.1 The report also leaves out significant context, which might lead readers to draw somewhat different conclusions about how the federal workforce has changed over time.

While the report makes it clear that only three agencies are responsible for the lion’s share of growth, significant context is missing, namely: longer-term trends suggest a different picture of public-sector growth, and for-profit federal contract employees are not counted in these numbers. In particular, the picture can change significantly when contractors are included. One also has to dive into GAO’s report to discover that most of the modest federal civilian workforce growth occurred between 2007 and 2009 and that numerous government agencies shrunk. Continue reading “Is the Federal Civilian Workforce Really Growing? Some Important Context”