- Of the 800,000 employees affected by the federal government shutdown, 420,000 are unpaid essential personnel who must report to work, according to new PayScale data. Another 380,000 are unpaid non-essential furloughed employees who aren't required to work. PayScale noted that, historically, federal workers are paid when the government reopens, but thousands of federal contractors might not receive back pay.
- Although some government workers earn six-figure salaries, the average federal employee earns about $500 a week, PayScale said, citing the New York Times. PayScale also noted that, with the current labor market's record-low unemployment rate, now might be the right time for federal workers to move into the private sector, where their transferrable skills can earn higher salaries.
- According to PayScale, the higher-paying, private-sector jobs are in technology and engineering and science — industries that lead in job growth. PayScale also found job growth in the finance and insurance and energy and utilities industries. PayScale cited transferable government workers' skills: technological skills involving advanced scripting languages, including Go, Kubernetes and Scala; financial services involving knowledge of ADP payroll and revenue-reporting procedures; and energy and utilities-based knowledge involving financial modeling, risk management and compliance and regulatory/OSHA compliance.
While PayScale raised the question of whether it's time for government workers impacted by the shutdown to consider joining the private sector, it also weighed in on the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Although government employees could earn more money in the private sector, federal wages have grown twice as fast, The New York Times reported.
"These are jobs in a highly unionized sector, where people see decent benefits, decent job security, decent wage growth over time," Heidi Shierholz, an Economic Policy Institute economist, told the Times. The same report said that there are fewer federal jobs than corporate jobs, but that there's usually been more job stability for government workers, especially for women and African Americans. The shutdown, the Times reported, is shattering that stability.
Are furloughed federal workers a talent pool for private-sector recruiters, who struggle to fill openings in an employee-driven market with historically low unemployment? According to talent management specialist John Sullivan, yes. "These negative events have unwittingly created a powerful recruiting opportunity for hiring away top government workers," he wrote in a blog post when the government shut down in 2013 — and his view hasn't changed this time around, according to Fast Company.
Sullivan also said the time is right for the private sector to recruit federal workers because morale is low and the shutdown could continue for a while. Packaged Facts reported that some of the 380,000 furloughed federal workers have even signed up with Airbnb, Fiverr, Uber or TaskRabbit as a second job to make ends meet. Sullivan told Fast Company that the economic conditions are right — with companies growing, low unemployment remaining consistent and remote work options on the rise. Non-governmental employers may not be able to offer the benefits of a government career, but they can offer a paycheck right now.