The F-Word: Don't Quit Your Daytime Job

Thursday - 7/1/2010, 4:00am EDT

Senior Correspondent Mike Causey has stepped away from the keyboard for a much-needed break. While he figures out what advice he would give Venus Williams about retirement, we present "The Most Popular Federal Reports". This column was originally published on February 18, 2009. Bear in mind some details may have changed since then. sk

The F-word is being heard more and more every day in more federal agencies.

The F-word is, of course, FREEZE.

Late last year many feds and retirees, worried that their 2009 pay raise or cost of living adjustments might be delayed or frozen. Thanks largely to the big drop in oil prices, we and the rest of the world went from inflation to deflation in a brief period of time. Folks who predicted $400 a barrel oil are now worried about the deflationary effect of oil that is going for less than $40 a barrel.

But while fears of a pay or pension freeze were totally unfounded, the possibility of a hiring freeze is not out of the question.


  • The Obama administration has promised a line-by-line review of the budget and federal programs. Object: To see what's working, what needs fixing and what can go. A temporary hiring freeze would make sense pending this review. The administration's first budget will go to Congress next week.

  • A hiring freeze (with the usual loopholes) might make sense from a public relations point of view. Tens of thousands of private sector workers have lost their jobs. Others are hanging on by a thread. Many state and local goverments have frozen hiring until they find out what kind of $$$ they will get from the stimulus legislation.

California has furloughed large numbers of state employees and a seniority-based layoff, of up to 10 percent of the state government's workforce, is in the works.

The imposition of a federal hiring freeze, whether for real reasons or PR considerations, might make sense, even if really wasn't necessary.

IF it happens it would likely have the standard loopholes and safety valves that have been part of past freezes. That is agencies with health, safety and national defense roles could, IF there is a freeze, continue to hire on a limited basis.

Stay tuned. And don't panic. IF anything is going to happen it should be sooner rather than later.

To reach Mike:

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