Steady government work, something that already appeals to many people, will look even better in the months ahead. There are going to be fewer federal jobs, and more people trying to get of them. Some of the things coming up:
The budget President Carter will send to Congress in January will call for a significantly slimmer bureaucracy. It is anticipated that he will ask agencies in fiscal 1980 to cut employment between 2 percent and 2.5 percent, or around 38,000 jobs.
A hiring freeze is still likely. It would take effect as soon as it is ordered by the president. Insiders believe the freeze will allow only limited replacements in government, perhaps following earlier limited freezes that allowed agencies to replace 3 jobs for every 4 vacated.
Actual federal employment now is about 30,000 below levels anticipated for this time of year. That condition isn't unusual. But the shortfall could be significant if a hiring freeze is imposed soon, with a followup cut of 2 percent due to begin Oct. 1, 1979 when the 1980 fiscal year starts.
All of the projections deal with the government's full-time permanent work force of 1.9 million. They do not include the U.S. Postal Service. It has about 640,000 employes. But USPS officials hope to slow hiring, partly to make way for automation and also to help pay for the new contract imposed on both labor and management by an arbitrator. That contract guarantees pay raises and lifetime tenure to postal workers alreasy on the payroll. However, it would allow the USPS in future to lay off new workers for conomy reasons.
The effect of a job freeze, on top of about 30,000 unfilled jobs and coming cutbacks of 2 percent or more is expected to slow the attrition rate in government, which runs from 6,000 to 8,000 people a month. Civil servants, like workers everywhere, are less likely to jump jobs, transfer or retire when hard times hit. Freeze or job cutbacks, even the most cosmetic cutbacks, always translate into hard times.
Some old-line bureaucrats are upset with the White House economy efforts because most of the leaks they get come from newspapers or the business community.Presidential aides have talked about job freezes in meetings with industry leaders, as part of their pitch to sell voluntary wage-price restraints to the private sector. Word of that has trickled back to Washington, and even in a possibly grabled state, it has unnerved the federal community.
The job freeze, and the overall 2 percent personnel reduction, are part of the president's program to demonstrate to labor and management that the government is serious about fighting inflation. Carter continues to reject mandatory wage-price controls, and the only buttons he can push deal with the government. He has limited the coming Oct. 1 federal-military pay raise to 5.5 percent.
Today the White House will announce a 20 percent cut in federal travel costs. The government now spends about $3 billion each year on "administrative travel costs." Office of Management and Budget chief James McIntyre estimates the cut will save $75 million a year.
Reducing money for travel will mean fewer field trips for managers, reduced recruiting efforts, less federal presence at conventions, and a reduction in both legitimate presentations and the dog-and-pony shows some agencies are so busy putting on for the taxpayers at taxpayer expense.