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GovExec: The Shrinking Federal Workforce In D.C. And Nationwide

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Tom Shoop, GovExec editor-in-chief

A national Gallup survey out this month  provides a more detailed picture of the government workforce, including those employed at the federal, state and local levels. According to the survey, 29 percent of workers in D.C. area are employed by the government, 25 percent of workers in Maryland are on government payrolls the figure is 24 percent for Virginia. 

The D.C. area does not have the highest percentage of government workers, however, and a closer look reveals a shrinking federal workforce. Tom Shoop, editor-in-chief of Government Executive talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about the meaning behind the numbers. Here are some highlights:

On why Hawaii and Alaska, and not D.C., top the list in terms of percentage of federal workers: "Government employment tends to be concentrated in areas that are closest to the seats of power, or the areas that are farthest from it, where the government tends to control a lot of the land and deliver a lot of the services," says Shoop. 

Why there's been 4 percent drop in the overall federal workforce: "There's a lot of pressure on agencies across government to do more with less … that's been true for quite some time," he says, "I think we're beginning to see the effects of it in the size of federal agencies' workforces."

On whether Congress's efforts to trim the budget will result in a sharp decline in the federal workforce: "I think a sharp decline is probably unlikely," Shoop says. "There has been pressure on the size of the federal workforce for decades, and it's still hovered around 2 million, so it's probably not going to be affected that much.

Whether GOP proposals to shrink the workforce would have a great impact: "I think it depends on how much of a sweep there would be in the elections," Shoop says. "If the GOP takes over the presidency and both houses of Congress, we might see a moment where we might see a dramatic change. Absent that, I'd expect it to be more incremental."

If contractors will see more or less work as a result: "Because government typically has not been asked to do less, it's been asked to figure out how to do the same with less money and less people, oft that means shifting the work to contractors," Shoop says. "I wouldn't expect to have a dramatic impact on contracting unless there were deep, across-the-board budget cuts, and government really started doing less."


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