In rough times, government jobs have greater appeal

Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:26am EDT
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By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the economic downturn forces corporations and small businesses to shed jobs, one large employer still has the 'help wanted' sign out: the U.S. government.

Experts say the federal government's civilian workforce of 2.8 million is likely to expand significantly over the next several years as it gears up to stimulate the economy, rescue troubled banks, overhaul health care and pursue other elements of President Barack Obama's agenda.

With the economy in turmoil, the stability of a government career now holds greater appeal.

And it doesn't hurt that the new boss, President Barack Obama, has encouraged citizens to consider public service -- a marked contrast to predecessor George W. Bush, who disparaged government.

"It's the same thing that happened 40-some-odd years ago when Kennedy came in," said Ross Harris, whose Federal Research Service helps applicants find government jobs. "It was a new generation and there was the same type of excitement behind it, and we're seeing the same type of thing with Obama."

Harris said he has seen the number of unique visitors to his website double over the past year as the recession has taken hold.

Government hiring has increased steadily over the past four years, from 79,000 in fiscal year 2004 to 99,000 in fiscal 2007, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

The conservative Heritage Foundation estimates that the $787 billion economic stimulus package signed into law last month could create at least 100,000 more government jobs next year and 120,000 by 2012.   Continued...

<p>A man stops as he looks for a job during a job fair at the Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida March 4, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>