recruitment (Wright Studio/

COVID boosts fed hiring less than expected

As COVID hit in March, last year, the nation’s states and cities began to shut down, while multiple federal agencies geared up.

So—whether you believe that initial fed reaction was adequate or not—you could be forgiven for assuming the government workforce is significantly bigger since the epic war on coronavirus started. However, you’d be wrong.

In fact, the pace of federal hiring—which did surge at certain science and health agencies under temporary, special authorities in force due to the pandemic—actually clocked in lower in 2020 than 2019, according to a new report in the Federal Times.

You read that right. According to the piece, sourced from Office of Personnel Management employee data and other material, the federal workforce grew by over 34,000 last year, on its face a significant number. But the workforce grew by quite a bit more—about 40,000—the previous, non-COVID, year of 2019. To some observers, this relatively modest growth during such a massive national emergency seems surprisingly low.

Moreover, as the piece further documents, much of the past year’s modest increase in the federal workforce arose more due to lower-than-usual rates of retirements and separations, rather than any unusual spike in agency hiring.

Reader comments

Fri, Jun 4, 2021 SAM USA

It is very sad indeed that good, honest, qualified people with integrity no longer want to work for the Federal Government since Trump began making federal employees villains and bad mouthing them all. Currently there are over two hundred thousand open unfilled federal positions only because qualified people no longer want to work for Uncle Sam

Fri, Jun 4, 2021

Managers should not kid themselves, though, that those folks who held onto their positions during the crisis are going to stay. Many are waiting out anniversary dates or industry job offers to jump. Whether the initial fed reaction was adequate or not, or whether one administration deserves more blame than another are immaterial. The working conditions for many long-serving feds have largely changed for the worse during the crisis. The youngsters who value technology and telework above all else are the new wave. God help them and the USA.

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2021 Digital Almanac

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