IT hiring by the federal government is trending downward, with fewer jobs posted each month this year than last year, according to a Computerworld analysis of employment data.
The government had been posting well over 200 IT jobs a month, but since the budget sequestration went into effect in March, the IT job postings have dropped to about 150 a month.
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Federal hiring could drop to zero if Congress reaches a budget impasse next week and shuts down the government.
The federal civilian IT workforce reached nearly 83,000 by the end of 2012, but IT head count has been gradually declining, and was at 82,400 in June, according to the last available numbers from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's FedScope data bank.
Funding for federal agencies has been uncertain because of sequestration, which imposed mandated across-the-board cuts, as well budgets that are based on continuing resolutions and not full-year plans.
As a result, "it becomes very difficult to project how much payroll money you will have in any one particular fiscal year," said Rick Holgate, speaking in his capacity as president of the American Council for Technology, which is affiliated with the Industry Advisory Council. Both groups work jointly to provide a forum for government and private sector exchanges. Holgate is also CIO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
People are getting more cautious about hiring, and the jobs that are likely to be filled first are those in front-line positions such as law enforcement rather than those in back-office areas, including human resources, finance and IT, Holgate said.
The federal IT job-listing data that Computerworld assembled was gathered by searching USAJobs.gov, the federal employment website, once per month for all listings coded as occupational series 2200, the Information Technology Group. This series covers occupations such as IT program manager, project manager, IT specialist, architecture, security, systems analyst, application software, operating systems, network services, system administration, customer support and other functions. It may not cover the entire universe of federal IT jobs.
The decline in postings for government jobs may be showing some of the effect resulting from "a de facto shifting of some of the workload to the private sector," Holgate said.
This chart shows the number of tech job listings per month at USAJobs.gov, the federal employment website. It is based on data collected by Computerworld by searching once per month for federal IT jobs under the 2200 series, the IT hiring group. The data was collected from June 2012 through August of this year.
In the last couple of years, Holgate said, "it's easier and less risky to bring on contractors than to commit to hiring government employees." Using private contractors allows agencies to ramp up on projects as needed, providing more flexibility. However, the downside is that "private sector people are more expensive on a per person basis than if they were federal employees," he said.