A Harsh Question: Are You Essential?

There’s still one place in America that’s experiencing robust job growth – Washington D.C. Which got us thinking about this whole government shutdown. I mean, the federal government is the country’s largest employer and the fallout from the shutdown will be felt at almost every federal agency. And oh yes, and for the millions of Americans they serve.

Government agencies have been bracing for this, of course, as they have been performing a few light office housekeeping duties, like updating their voicemail and email accounts to acknowledge the furlough. Where it gets interesting is how workers have been divided into essential and non-essential categories.

Essential workers stay on the clock, but will probably be paid retroactively (if Congress plays nice). Apparently, politicians count as essential as they will continue to be paid – although a few on both sides of the aisle have pledged to refuse or donate their pay during the impasse.

But let’s look at the breakdown of just a few of the non-essential workers who are now furloughed, by department:

97%  of NASA’s 18,134 workers
94% of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 16,205 workers
87% of Commerce’s 46,420 workers
82% of Labor’s 16, 304 workers
80% of Treasury’s 112,461 workers
50% of Defense’s 800,000 workers
33% of Transportation’s 55,468 workers

Remember, these percentages are the non-essential workers. Hmm, that means the government actually has to decide how much of its essential services are actually, well, essential. Apparently, not a lot.

And the stock market is responding by going up. Private enterprise is actually working well without government after all.

Departments that stay open during a shutdown are those directly related to national security and public safety, including the U.S. military, all emergency medical care providers and those responsible for border patrol, law enforcement, and emergency and disaster assistance.