Job Seekers React to the Government Shutdown

This month, for the first time in nearly two decades, the federal government shut down and 800,000 federal employees were furloughed as a result. In September, ahead of the shutdown, the government employed 2,723,000 people — 2% of people with jobs in the US. This is a significant drop from 1966, when the government employed 4.3% of people with jobs.

With this historical decline in federal employment as a backdrop, we wondered how the recent events affected interest in government jobs. To learn more, we analyzed the search activity around keywords “government” and “federal” as we approached and then recovered from the government shutdown.

Interest in federal employment saw a dramatic decline

From August 5 to October 5, job searches that included the terms “federal” and “government” declined by 25%. That steady decline was then followed by a sharp dip around the time of the shutdown. As Indeed economist Tara Sinclair explained, the decline “signaled a general loss of faith in government work.” While the yearly peak for these search terms occurred over the summer, as talk of a shutdown grew, search activity went down.

Upon the government reopening, interest spiked

Within a week of the agreement to reopen the government, the same search terms surged in popularity by an incredible 15% as compared to the beginning of the month. Although there does seem to be a persistent decline as compared to earlier in the year, the rebound likely means that people haven’t become disillusioned with federal employment. Rather, people were unlikely to look or apply for government jobs while those offices were closed. As Tara noted, “it will be interesting to see how long it takes for demand to stabilize and what effects the shutdown will have on interest in federal employment.”