In a year where many private companies have been conducting layoffs or moving more cautiously by cost-cutting and reducing hiring rates, the government has accelerated its approach to fill new job openings.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show public-sector jobs at the federal, state, and local levels have surged by 327,000 positions in 2023 — making up nearly one-fifth of all new jobs in the first eight months of this year. This is a stark contrast to the previous year, where these jobs accounted for only 5% of employment growth.
This uptick in government hiring comes after a period of stagnation. Julia Pollak, an economist at ZipRecruiter, suggested that this is a “necessary catch-up” after two years of subdued government hiring, according to The Wall Street Journal. A significant portion of the new openings are to replace teachers, police officers, and other public servants who left their positions during the pandemic.
Historically, the public sector struggled to compete with private employers who were offering attractive pay raises and signing bonuses. In response to this, it seems that Government agencies are now offering similar packages.
For instance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is offering recruitment bonuses as high as $20,000 for certain roles. Additionally, a ZipRecruiter analysis found that government job postings this year are advertising pay rates 20% higher than the previous year.
Despite these incentives, many public-sector roles are still overlooked by job seekers. This could be attributed to factors such as long hiring timelines and traditionally lower pay scales compared to the private sector. Yet, the public sector offers what many of today’s workers are seeking: stability, reasonable working hours, and a sense of purpose. Some local governments are even experimenting with innovative hiring practices, like San Diego County’s same– day hiring initiative, according to The Wall Street Journal.
While this trend of increased government hiring is notable, it’s uncertain if it will continue in the long run. Economic challenges like high interest rates could lead to budget constraints, making it difficult for governments to maintain this hiring pace. However, the current momentum suggests the public sector will become an increasingly attractive option for many job seekers.