If you are trying to get a federal job right now the odds are 76 to 1 against you - and getting longer every day.
In metropolitan Washington, where the federal-dominated job market is relatively good and unemployment relatively low, the main government job center gets 7,000 letters a month, and deals with 14,000 individuals every 20 days who come in asking how they can join the 350,000 people here who already work for Uncle sam.
During the first months of this year 5,664,757 people - that is more than the total population of either Missouri or North Carolina - tried to get a government job. Only 31,000 of them made it.
And things are getting tougher for the government job hunter all the time.
Last year there were 63 applicants for every available job. Now it is a 76 to 1 ratio and officials expect it to increase every year.
Of the 5.6 million people who inquired about government jobs from January through June, about 760,000 went through the initial application process. More than 734,000 applied to take written tests for the jobs requiring them, and 403,142 actually took those test, of that number, only 31,630 were selected.
Those figures do not include the largest single federal agency - The U.S. Postal Service - which does its own testing and hiring. The competition for those jobs is just as fierce as for clerical, administrative, professional or blue collar government work.
Federal officials point out that the statistics - the 5.6 million inquiries - represent only people who got through. Nobody knows how many job hunters have been frustrated by long lines, or seemingly forever-busy telephone numbers, and have given up. They aren't counted in the statistics.
Nobody knows for sure why there is this big, and growing, upsurge of interest in federal employement. The best guess is that it is a combination of things including good pay, regular automatics raises, fringe benefits, and, of course, the big item never mentioned in fringe benefits, job security, in a very tough job market.
There were no strikes in government last year and layoffs (as compared to industry:) were a drop in the bucket. The number of federal workers fired is less than one half of 1 per cent of the total workforce.
In the national hand-wringing period following Watergate many pundits predicted the government would dry up and blow away, because youth was turned off of public service. None of those crystal-ball gazers have been down at the Civil Service Commision job center lately, where lines of young (and old) people who like to eat regularly are trying desperately to hook on with Uncle Sam. Even the Central Intelligene Agency - which has suffered very bad press of late - has more applicants than it can handle.
If government pay and fringe benefits look good to outsiders there is a reason for it. Government workers tend to be better educated and trained than their industry counterparts. Salaries range from $5,810 to $47,500, and because the government is no longer and army of clerks, average pay in federal cities like Washington runs around $17,000.
Many federal workers feel that their pay scales are behind industry. Others feel that U.S. fringe benefits have been blown out of proportation in the public mind. Some people in government claim that it stifles incentive and discourages the creative. Maybe they are right.
But the figures show that there are lots of people literally beating down the doors of federal offices looking for work. Maybe they know something, too. They obviously think they do.
Schedule C. Jobs: Tuesday's column about the number of Schedule C jobs in government incorrectly showed combined totals for the Grade 1 through 15 Schedule C positions and the Grade 16 through 18 NEA; 1969, 1,200 Schedule C and 502 NEA; 1971, 1,441 Schedule C jobs and 562 NEAs and 1976, 983 Schedule C and 495 NEA.