The partial freeze on federal hiring that was supposed to end about now will be around for at least another two weeks. Maybe longer, in some agencies.
Continuation of the hiring clampdown is bad news for government job hunters. And it is also a problem for managers who have new or expanded programs to push with fewer people, and law management flexibility than they've had in some time.
Federal officials say the 25 per cent hiring cut back will remain in effect for most agencies until new job ceilings for agencies and departments have been set by the Office of Management and Budget and approved by the White House.
Only two agencies, Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, have gotten the word that new ceilings for them will mean significant job cuts. But others must continue the partial hiring freeze pending the new ceilings from OMB. The reason it is taking so long is that many Carter administration appointees - who came to the job mandated to cut and economize - are now pushing for bigger personnel allotments.
In the meantime, the hiring reduction ordered by the President in March continues. The plan permits agencies to fill only three jobs for every four that become vacant. The idea was to stop growth and give agencies a slight reduction before they got new - and presumably lower - celings.
The White House had hoped to have the new job ceilings set - at least informally - by April 1. But insiders doubted they would make that target date because of the anticipated tough reaction of agency heads to OMB body-cutters. That has proved to be the case, hence the delay in the ceilings and the continuation of the freeze.
Insiders say the freeze has not stopped hiring at the very bottom and top levels of government programs relating to veterans, minority groups, and students have been allowed to hire - although some have rejected applicants anyway, using the freeze as the reason. Also it was understood from the beginning that the freeze was not to stop the filling of political jobs which pay from $47,500 to $86,000.
Grade Creep? Althought President Carter is on record as wanting a reduction in the average grade, indications are that his freeze has had the opposite effect and boosted grade averages in most agencies. The reason: turnover is greatest in the lower-grade, lower-paid jobs. More clerks and secretaries leave their jobs than do scientists and supergraders. So agency grads level averages have been climbing during the freeze periods.