Where the Jobs Are

I recently read the following article on www.cnn.com and found it to be so relevant and appropriate for the times as well as for our industry that I felt compelled to post an abridged copy of it in this week’s blog. I hope you agree.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency are all hiring and more could be added to the list. If the economic stimulus package is passed, the Obama administration said that would lead to 244,000 government jobs at a time when thousands of private sector jobs are getting slashed.

Enjoy and Happy Hunting!

David Lammert

As unemployment rises, Uncle Sam has jobs
Abridged: Associated Press, Feb. 3, 2009

The economic downturn has forced private industry and state and local government to shed jobs, but one major employer in the country is hiring: The federal government.

While the nation’s 11 million unemployed and the millions more who fear losing their jobs may feel Washington should streamline too, economists say a strong federal work force is key to economic recovery. Were President Barack Obama to put any of the nearly 2 million federal civil servants out in the street in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the consequences could be dire.

Obama’s proposed $800-plus billion economic aid plan, which includes heavy spending on public works, is expected to increase the ranks of government workers, although mostly at the state and local level.

That measure is working its way through Congress just as Microsoft Corp., Pfizer, Caterpillar, Home Depot and scores of other companies are shedding workers, and governors are asking or ordering state workers to accept furloughs, salary reductions, truncated workweeks or reduced benefits.

Simply letting federal workers go is “penny-wise and pound foolish,” said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that works to revitalize the government and its work force. “We had a situation where we had a single person monitoring toys coming in from abroad. The result: You get lead-tainted toys coming in to the country,” Stier said. “We need people looking out for the public good.”

Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University, also thinks more, not fewer, federal workers are needed on the front lines. He said other steps could be taken to trim costs. The Obama administration has suggested reducing the number of managers at the middle levels, he said.

The government’s civilian, nonmilitary work force peaked in the late 1960s at about 2.3 million. It was 2 million or more through the mid-1990s, when the government cut more than 400,000 jobs — many through military base closings. Since 2001, civilian employment in the executive branch, excluding postal employees, has edged upward from 1.7 million to about 2 million, largely because of new homeland security jobs.

More federal job openings are on the horizon.

A report released in January by Christina Romer, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, an economic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, predicted that more than 90 percent of the 3 million to 4 million jobs that Obama proposes to save or create would be in the private sector.

But the report also estimated that 244,000 government jobs — some at the federal level, but more at the state and local level — would be created or saved.

That was based on a $600 billion stimulus package; the one being debated in Congress is more than $800 billion.

Moreover, many baby boomers who are getting government paychecks are at retirement age. The Office of Personnel Management estimates that 58 percent of supervisory and 42 percent of nonsupervisory workers who were on the federal payroll as of October 2004 will be eligible to retire by the end of next year. The financial meltdown, however, has prompted some to delay retirement.

Other older workers are seeking federal jobs, which come with job security, health and life insurance, a federal retirement program, paid vacations and leave and other benefits.

Rising unemployment and excitement about working for Obama combined to motivate about 350,000 people to apply for 3,000 to 4,000 political appointee positions in his new administration. Jumping to the federal payroll, however, doesn’t necessarily mean moving to the nation’s capital; more than 80 percent of federal civil workers are employed outside the Washington metro area.

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