On Monday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order freezing all federal government hiring with the exception of the military.
In a press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the hiring freeze was due to “dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.” Spicer later said that the increase in the size of the federal workforce has been a source of government waste in recent years.
The only problem with this reasoning is that the workforce of the federal government is roughly the same as when President Barack Obama took office and much lower than in decades past.
The non-military workforce was 2.80 million people according to the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (this number does include civilian employees in the Department of Defense). This is only slightly higher than the 2.79 million at the time when former President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.
Additionally, it is much lower than the 3.10 million federal employees in 1990.
Of note, the number does spike every 10 years as people are hired to assist with the US Census.
Neil Dutta, the head of US economics at Renaissance Macro, also noted the discrepancy between Spicer’s statement and the actual rate of hiring.
“Dramatic is subjective,” wrote Dutta in an email. “But, here is a chart of federal government ex Census payroll employment — up 2.9% since bottoming in April 2014. During this time, private employment is up 5.7%. Also, one reason why federal employment is weaker is because postal service employment has declined as consumers shift online.”
While a freeze on federal hiring may be a way to decrease federal spending, to say that the freeze was necessary due to a “dramatic expansion” in the government is misleading.