- President Donald Trump has ordered an end to a hiring freeze placed on federal agencies by way of executive order, according to multiple reports.
- Under the original memorandum issued by the president, the freeze had been slated to end on Apr. 21 prior to Tuesday's announcement. Its negation won't change the duty of federal agencies to submit cuts that line up with Trump's slimmer budgetary proposals, The New York Times reports.
- Moreover, the White House is still holding fast to its promise to "drain the swamp" (i.e. reform the federal bureaucracy), said Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). NPR reports that under the administration's new guidance, agencies still won't be able to hire "willy-nilly." Mulvaney said Trump has called for a "more surgical approach," saying some agencies will be "paring" employee ranks down "even greater than they would have during the hiring freeze."
The "swamp" isn't so much drained at the moment — the latest announcement leaves it just a bit less dammed.
Perhaps the biggest factor that will shape agency hiring is the Trump administration's budget proposal, which has yet to be approved by Congress. The draft made headlines among the HR crowd a few weeks ago when it proposed a 21% cut to the Labor Department, a decision supposedly made without the consultation of Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta.
Don't expect much more legislative progress on that front until after Easter Sunday. On top of voting to confirm Acosta and Trump's budget, Congressional leaders are also returning to D.C. in time to solve a potential government shutdown, though reports indicate this may not be imminent.
Bureaucratic reform was one of Trump's major promises on the campaign trail, prompting some federal agencies to increase their hiring just before he took the oath of office. Some even skipped vacations to dedicate themselves to recruitment.
With several crucial employment law issues and compliance procedures placed on the books in the past year, some observers are worried whether agencies like the DOL have enough human resources to enforce key regulations. Further staff reductions could be made just as important court cases, like that of the FLSA overtime rule, are in limbo.
This news shouldn't deter federal employers from preparing their recruitment efforts, however. While it's wise to hold back somewhat until the White House is ready to divulge more details (and until the issue of the budget is settled), HR directors can still devise useful strategies in the event that they're able to hire again. Temporary contracts, for example, could attract federal workers who were displaced by recent events.
Indeed, most public agencies will probably still rely heavily on contractor work moving forward, despite recruitment freezes. Experts still don't know how Trump will tackle the issue of federal contract hires, if ever. It's possible that a reduction in hiring at federal agencies could boost hiring for contractors to fill gaps in the federal workforce.