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State of the Labor Market

As the Government Shutdown Drags On, Many Government Workers Look Elsewhere


As the longest US government shutdown in history drags on, federal workers are increasingly seeking new opportunities, according to job search data by Indeed.

With the government shutdown lasting more than a month, how are federal government workers responding? By increasingly looking for new jobs. Using Indeed’s job search data, we analyzed how workers from several government agencies are searching for new positions.

We found that workers at unfunded agencies (who are more likely to be seeing delays in paychecks) are increasingly seeking new work. There is also the beginning of a pick-up in job search at funded agencies, although usually not as dramatically—and sometimes the pick-up in search may be related to non-shutdown events as well. Overall, the analysis suggests that Federal worker frustration is starting to boil over even to workers not directly affected by the shutdown.

What’s happening at some unfunded agencies?

We took a look at four unfunded agencies—the TSA, Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, and the Census Bureau. All four are seeing clicks on new jobs by their current employees elevated above where they usually are at this time of year. This activity has accelerated as the shutdown has continued. (Throughout this post, a black line denotes the date of the shutdown)

What’s happening at funded agencies?

Workers at the Department of Education, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Labor held on for awhile, but some seem to have started to see job search creeping up. The numbers are smaller than at the unfunded agencies, and so it will be interesting to see if this pattern increases in the days to come, or if job search activity at these agencies returns to normal.

The Department of Defense is not furloughed—but it has seen an increase in job search activity. The recent pick-up seems to have accelerated strongly around December 19th/20th, continued to grow through the beginning of January, and then remained at a high level. It is unclear how much of the acceleration was due to personnel changes at the Department of Defense (such as the resignation of former Secretary Mattis) and how much was a reaction to the shutdown.

What happens next?

At some point, the government shutdown will end. Perhaps the Senate will pass legislation the House and the President can agree on later this week, or maybe the shutdown will continue. In the long run, the question is: will the Federal government see an outflow of talent to the private sector, and will it be able to recover once the shutdown ends?


We looked at the clicks on job postings on Indeed coming from workers at each of these agencies, where workers were identified by accounts of job seekers who had a resume uploaded to Indeed who indicated that the agency was their most recent employer. We then took the share of clicks by these employees as compared to clicks overall on Indeed job postings, used a 30 day moving average to smooth volatility, and normalized December 1st as 100. Note that Census, DOL, DoD, and Ed have smaller sample sizes than other agencies, and so their data may be more volatile.