Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly cited the job of executive secretary at the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation as one that will be vacated when the Bush administration leaves office. The job is filled by a 13-member board of trustees controlled by the president, but because trustees serve staggered terms, the position of executive secretary will not change hands with the new administration.

'Plum Book' Is Obama's Big Help-Wanted Ad

Joyce Tate and Stephen R. Morbley, who work at the Government Printing Office bookstore, put copies of the new Plum Book on display.
Joyce Tate and Stephen R. Morbley, who work at the Government Printing Office bookstore, put copies of the new Plum Book on display. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
Buy Photo
By Lyndsey Layton and Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 13, 2008

As the national unemployment rate climbs to a 14-year high, a treasure trove of about 8,000 new jobs surfaced in one place on Capitol Hill yesterday. The federal government published the Plum Book, an inventory of positions that will soon be vacated by the Bush administration and open for hire.

The 209-page paperback, officially titled "The United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions," is exciting reading for people coveting jobs in the incoming Obama administration. It details the positions -- some high-level, some almost comically obscure -- that are likely to change hands as a Democrat moves into the White House after eight years of Republican rule.

The Marine Mammal Commission has three openings, each paying $100,000 a year. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation will need a new executive secretary who will earn $139,600 to $191,300 a year. And at the Department of Health and Human Services, there's an opening for a confidential assistant to the deputy director of child support enforcement in the Administration for Children and Families (whew), for an annual salary of $48,148 to $62,593, depending on experience.

While the Plum Book may seem like one humongous neon "help wanted" sign, job seekers may not want to pack their bags and head for Washington just yet.

Many of the positions are highly specific, such as assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury Department. Some, like the jobs that will turn over in the vice president's office, are not included because the office technically is not part of either the executive branch or the legislative branch.

All of the listed posts require political connections. About one-third of the jobs are strictly presidential appointments -- that is, patronage positions that will go largely to Democrats who know how to network.

"This isn't an open job search," said Paul C. Light, an expert in federal government who teaches at New York University. "If you don't have someone who's going to take your résumé in on your behalf, don't sell your house. Everyone thumbs through this and likes to imagine themselves in these jobs. But it's really more like the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue -- a lot of people pick it up and say, 'Oh, wouldn't it be nice to have that tiara?' "

Published every four years, the Plum Book is about 1,000 jobs heavier this year than it was in 2004, evidence that the federal government has expanded. Priced at $38 at the government's bookstore on North Capitol Street or available online for purchase or viewing (, it announces every political job in the outgoing administration, including the name of the officeholder and the current salary.

Pay runs the range -- from well-compensated jobs such as chief of staff at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who earns $221,100 a year, to a member of the Arctic Research Commission, a part-time, four-year post paying $571 annually.

All that specific information is helpful not just to job seekers but also to those who want to do business with the new government.

Bill Dingell, a software vendor to federal agencies, picked up his copy of the Plum Book yesterday afternoon. "It tells you which are appointed and which are career, so you know who's leaving and who's landing," he said.

Gary Somerset, a spokesman for the Government Printing Office, said that the bookstore sold 150 copies yesterday and that 200 more were purchased online. The number of page views of the online version of the book was not available last night.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company