Government Jobs: You Won't Be Fired?

Susan Hall

With the federal government experiencing retention issues among its work force, how about this as a recruiting tool: You're more likely to die of natural causes than be fired from a government job.


That's the conclusion USA Today came to after analyzing the Office of Personnel Management's database to look at job security in the federal work force. It studied data from the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, so it's a bit old. The June report from the U.S. Labor Department showed 14,000 fewer people on the federal payroll from a year ago if you exclude the postal service. The postal service, census and uniformed military personnel are not included in USA Today's data.


USA Today found that in the budget year studied, the federal government fired 0.55 percent of workers - 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million work force. That compares with about 3 percent fired in the private sector each year for poor performance. For instance, the Federal Communications Commission, with 1,800 employees, and the Federal Trade Commission, with 1,200, had no layoffs or firings. The Small Business Administration had no layoffs, six firings and 17 deaths among 4,000 workers.


The job security rate for all agencies was 99.43 percent and nearly 100 percent for those on the job more than a few years. (Perhaps that speaks to the retention issues.) Your job was most secure if you worked in Washington, D.C., made more than $50,000 and were in a white-collar job.


The story quotes HUD spokesman Jerry Brown attributing the high job security rate to a skilled, committed work force - and to a focus on hiring the right people. However, it also quotes San Francisco State University management professor John Sullivan, an expert on employee turnover, saying it indicates "a serious management problem."


As the debt situation grows more dire, perhaps that will change. Of course, stories such as this merely reinforce the stereotypes about government work. But those perceptions have to change if federal government hopes to attract and retain a younger generation of workers.

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