Economist: DC region losing federal jobs with or without hiring freeze

WASHINGTON — The D.C. region could be poised to lose scores of federal jobs in the near future, despite the announcement from the Trump administration this week that the federal hiring freeze that has been in place for several months is being lifted.

“There’s a slowing of job growth without any action by the new administration or Congress,” said Stephen Fuller, an economist at George Mason University who studies the D.C. area. “It’s just the cards that we’ve been dealt.”

According to Fuller, the region is expected to lose at least 16,500 federal jobs through 2021.

“That reflects trends that we’ve been experiencing here since federal employment peaked in 2010,” Fuller said. “We’re working down to a smaller federal government.”

But the number of lost jobs could go much higher, depending on what federal officials decide to do with the workforce.

When President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, announced that the freeze was being lifted on Wednesday, he also said many jobs will remain unfilled as the White House embarks on a government-wide effort to overhaul the executive branch.

Mulvaney told reporters at a White House briefing that the move was part of the president’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington and save taxpayers money.

“The president of the United States has asked all of us in the executive branch to start from scratch,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney declined to say how many jobs, overall, the administration intends to eliminate, but said: “I think it probably goes without saying that, net, we think we could run the government more efficiently than the previous administration.”

Agencies are expected to submit plans for overhauling their workforces and coming up with ideas for streamlining operations.

Fuller said if cuts under the Trump administration run deep, he would not be surprised if the D.C. region lost tens of thousands of federal jobs; possibly more than 30,000 between now and 2021.

“We’re looking at weak growth already, and it could be significantly lowered by the continuation of a freeze or a general cutback in federal employment across all agencies, as is being considered,” Fuller said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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