Is your job on the chopping block?

Good news/bad news on the federal government job security front:

The bad news is that 142,255 government jobs disappeared in 2010 and another 183,064 people were fired, or pushed into retirement in 2011.

The good news, if you are a federal civil servant, is that the overwhelming number of government workers who were booted out or otherwise let go are state, county or municipal workers. The number of federal employees who were victims of RIFs (layoffs) over the past two years probably wouldn’t fill your town’s national guard armory.

A study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., says that the government, financial, retail and defense/aerospace sectors were hit hardest in 2010-2011. In what passes for good news these days, the Chicago-based outplacement company said that compared to the previous 23 months, 2011 “went out like a lamb in terms of downsizing activity” — meaning “just” 42,339 layoffs in in December 2011.


Again, the overwhelming number of the jobs that disappeared were in the nonfederal government sector, finance and retail. A number of government contractors had to slimdown, and most of those hits — which included nonfederal government workers like teachers — were in D.C., California, North Carolina, Michigan and New Jersey. D.C. lost 98,676 jobs, California 62,500 and New Jersey and Michigan a little over 31,000 each.

One Virginia state employee told us: “We were shown our personalized layoff papers a little over a year ago. Every week we expect it will be our last week. Each one, if you look at it that way, is a gift.”

So are layoffs a possibility in the federal sector? Maybe. Much will depend on Congress and how federal agencies — especially the Defense Department — handle downsizing mandated by the White House.

Up to now, on the job front, federal and postal workers spent the last two years in pay limbo while waiting for the other bad news shoes to drop. Those poised (and still airborne) clod-hoppers include:

  • Plans to make feds and retirees pay a bigger share of their health premiums.
  • Requiring feds and retirees to kick in more of their salary to finance their retirement benefits.
  • Changing the formula used to compute retirement annuities.
  • Another year, or two, without a pay raise. Despite the White House plan to increase wages by one half a percentage point.
  • Furloughs (a very real threat at the time) and across-the-board cuts which haven’t happened. Yet.

It now appears feds can add job security to their worry beads. Depending on how Congress and the administration decide to do it, most federal operations are going to have to eliminate jobs. Either by a total or limited hiring freeze (which some have already done), by refilling only some of the jobs vacated by retirement, or through RIFs which haven’t been a major factor since the downsizing of the Clinton administration.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turns out the last two years were the good old days for the federal workforce.


By Jack Moore

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