Government Workers Begin to Think About New Roles Amid U.S. Government Shutdown

The longest U.S. government shutdown in history has ended, but the impacts of the 35-day closure are still being felt by the more than 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed across the country. To better understand the impact this shutdown had on workers, as well as the potential for “brain drain” in the public sector, we took a look at our data. We identified the agencies affected and unaffected based on documentation from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Unsurprisingly, hiring was down nearly 50% at the shuttered agencies during the shutdown. What was interesting to us was that we saw a big uptick the impacted workers sending signals that they were interested in new roles, and recruiters were taking notice.

Our initial findings showed:

  • The shutdown caused a major slowdown in government hiring. The hiring rate among government agencies impacted by the shutdown was 50% lower than the hiring rate of unaffected agencies so far in January 2019, despite having similar hiring rate trends consistently over the past two years.
  • Federal workers are explicitly signalling their desire for a new role. During the shutdown, we saw a sustained daily increase in affected workers using our Open Candidates feature, which lets LinkedIn members quietly signal to recruiters that they’re open to new opportunities. In January, we saw a 59% increase in affected workers indicating they are open to new job opportunities, relative to their unaffected counterparts.
  • Recruiters are seizing the opportunity to target top talent. InMails to impacted workers increased nearly 60% relative to unaffected workers in January 2019 vs. this period of time in 2018, largely driven by companies in the tech and gig economy spaces - with a specific spike following the President’s address on January 8. The roles they were targeting are among some of the most in-demand skill sets in the country - among them, software engineers, IT specialists, and program managers - signalling a potential for larger impact as this coveted talent leaves the public sector for more stability.  

From an economic standpoint, it remains to be seen whether the shutdown will have a noticeable effect on a national, aggregate basis. Stay tuned for more in our upcoming Workforce Reports. However, the data is already indicating a clear agency-level effect from the shutdown.

The long-term impact could be messier. Depending on how many of these workers decide to leave their jobs in favor of a potentially more stable role, the public sector could be facing a serious brain drain that could take a significant time to recover from. There’s also a chance that hiring in the public sector gets harder and the candidate pipeline could take a hit due to ongoing instability. The short-term deal to reopen the government is in effect until February 15, but President Trump has stated that an additional shutdown remains a possibility, which may make the jump to a new industry more appealing for federal employees.

We’ll be tracking the long term impact of the shutdown, and it will be interesting to see how the future of the federal workforce will be shaped as a result.

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