‘Sunshine’ Predicted in Employment Forecast

Posted March 24, 2010 at 4:06pm

Spring has sprung — and so has the possibility for thousands of political and policy careers.

Several factors are converging right now that make for an encouraging public affairs job climate in Washington in the short and long term, according to political headhunters.

“We see a little bit of sunshine coming through the clouds,” said Chris Jones, president and CEO of PoliTemps, a political temporary staffing service. “There should be a spring in [job

seekers’] step because spring’s going to be here and jobs are going to be a bit more plentiful than they have been.”

After a brutal 2009, when the tanking economy had organizations laying off workers left and right, the economy seems to have leveled out, Jones said.

As a result, nonprofits and other organizations that get money from fundraising or endowments should again be able to hire.

Jones said the rate at which he’s been able to find PoliTemps’ job seekers temporary work is up about 25 percent from a few months ago. Nationally, temp work is up 15 percent from the same time last year, according to the American Staffing Association.

And more and more, he said, he’ll call someone on his list of people seeking temp work just to find that the person has since lined up a full-time job.

“The talent pool is getting smaller for us, but it means people seeking employment in public affairs … are finding permanent employment,” he said.

To add to the positive prognosis, Jones said the fact that the President Barack Obama signed into law health care reform earlier this week means the government and lobbying sector will start to focus on other matters — energy, immigration and climate change, for instance.

“What that means is other organizations in Washington can now spend money to advocate for those issues,” he said. “They’re going to be hiring to assist in lobbying, conferences, grass-roots efforts, media and public relations efforts.”

And simply by virtue of the nice weather, spring in the District brings an inevitable swarm of those conferences, lobby days and other events.

“They need politically savvy staff,” Jones said. “That’s good news for the typical 22- to 25-year-old just out of school who’s been here sitting on a horrible economy.”

Plus, there’s always a hiring spree with the campaign frenzy leading up to November, he added; the need for political consultants, press secretaries and other campaign operatives should go up.

“Both sides are energized and excited about this election,” Jones said. “It’s going to be sort of a bellwether of how Obama is expected to do for the rest of his term.”

But all this might just be the tip of the iceberg for government-sector job growth, said Tim McManus, vice president of education and outreach at the Partnership for Public Service, a group that encourages young people to take government jobs.

Federal employees who entered the workforce during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, when there was an expansion of government similar to what can be seen today, are quickly reaching retirement age, he said.

“The federal workforce is actually the oldest workforce by sector,” he said. “The same kind of influx that the government saw in the 1960s, they’re now seeing on the back end of things. People are leaving.”

By 2012, the federal government will need to fill about 273,000 “mission critical” jobs — that is, spots in health care and medical, security and protection, program management and administration, legal, and information technology fields.

McManus added that 600,000 government jobs in total need to be filled by 2012, meaning ample room for political types to gain employment, too.

In the longer term, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2018, the government sector, already the nation’s largest employer with 2 million workers, will grow by 10 percent. Despite competing philosophies on the size of government, this means one thing: more jobs — 200,000 more, to be exact.

“In terms of hiring, it’s really the expanded role of government itself,” McManus said. “With talk of new regulatory agencies … they need people to effectively run them.”

But McManus said that for any job seeker, it’s key to find the issue you are passionate about, not simply settle for a government job because it’s there.

And Jones added that a lot of times, the action’s not in Washington at all, but rather at the state level. People who prove themselves there, he said, often find themselves back in the District anyway.