The jobs boom is hitting the federal sector, too

The federal government added 11,000 jobs in January, an usually high number but in line with recent trends under the Biden administration. 

Including the U.S. Postal Service, federal agencies have seen robust growth of 86,000 jobs over the last year. Not counting decennial census years when the government hires hundreds of thousands of temporary workers, total federal employment reached its highest level in at least 20 years, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The last year saw the most non-census hiring of any 12-month period over the same two-decade period. 

Of the 11,000 jobs gained in January, about 4,500 were for the Postal Service and 6,500 went toward the rest of federal government. Only a handful of non-census months over the last 20 years have seen such significant federal job growth. Federal employment has increased in 16 of the last 17 months. 

Much of the increases are attributable to special hiring initiatives at the Internal Revenue Service and the Veterans Affairs Department, though the Biden administration has been making staffing gains at most federal agencies. While early in his tenure Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pledged to slash the USPS workforce, the mailing agency’s headcount has remained fairly stable and it has shifted much of it from part-time to full-time, career employees. 

The economy overall added 353,000 jobs in January, far outpacing expectations. 

The civilian federal workforce has grown by about 3% in the last year. Looking only at permanent, non-postal employees, President Biden has overseen a roughly 5% increase since taking office. 

Biden came into office vowing to restore a civil service he said has been “hallowed out” by his predecessor. President Trump promised to slash agency rolls, and took several steps to see that through: he immediately instituted a governmentwide hiring freeze and instructed every agency to develop plans to shrink their staffing levels. After four years, he saw the number of federal employees grow by 2%. That figure is a bit misleading, as gains at three departments—Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Defense—hid losses at every other department and virtually every major agency.

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