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In a Feb. 15, 2011, press conference, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that "over the last two years since President Barack Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We're broke. It's time for us to get serious about how we're spending the nation's money."
A few readers asked us whether Boehner was right about the number of new federal jobs, so we checked into it.
We turned, as we always do, to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official statistician for the United States labor force.
BLS calculates two categories that illuminate Boehner’s comment.
The first is the overall rise in federal employees between January 2009 and January 2011. The net increase was 58,000.
The second is the number of federal employees without counting U.S. Postal Service workers. Over that same two-year period, the increase was 140,800.
Both of those numbers are lower than the 200,000 figure Boehner cited.
We also checked with John M. Palguta, vice president for policy with the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit that promotes government service, and he confirmed our general conclusion using numbers from a different database.
He dug into the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s on-line federal workforce data source, "FedScope." He found that in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, respectively, the federal government filled a net 59,995 and 47,062 new permanent, full-time, non-seasonal, non-postal jobs. Combined, that means that federal employment rose by 107,057 jobs -- well short of 200,000.
We checked with Boehner’s office to see what his statement was based on. Aides said they had used figures from December 2008 to January 2011, which produced an increase of 153,000 federal, non-postal jobs. Then they factored in, on a discounted basis, the temporary jobs required to carry out the 2010 Census. According to the Census Bureau, such temporary employment peaked at 585,729 in early May 2010.
"We think 200,000 is probably generous to the White House," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
In previous fact checks, we have rejected the idea of adding temporary Census workers to federal job totals. While the statements we rated previously aren’t structured in exactly the same way as Boehner’s, we think the general principle remains valid -- that when you’re counting the rise or fall in the number of federal workers over a long period of time, it’s cherry picking to count the creation of temporary jobs but not their elimination.
All told, we find that Boehner’s 200,000 number is way off. We rate it False.
Washington Post, "John Boehner: If federal jobs are lost, 'So be it,’" Feb. 15, 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics, main search page for Current Employment Statistics, accessed Feb. 15, 2011
U.S. Census Bureau, "Number of Temporary 2010 Census Workers Paid by Week and Census Region," accessed Feb. 15, 2011
E-mail interview with John M. Palguta, vice president for policy with the Partnership for Public Service, Feb. 11, 2011
E-mail interview with Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, Feb. 15, 2011
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