After jumping during the pandemic, the government's overall attrition rate has stabilized.
Young federal employees are leaving the federal government at a rapid rate, with nearly 9% of those under 30 quitting in fiscal 2021.
Governmentwide, according to a new report from the Partnership for Public Service that looked at voluntary quits and retirements, the attrition rate was 6.1% that year. While a slight increase from fiscal 2020, the figure is fairly steady from the pre-pandemic years. Some agencies and demographics, however, have experienced much higher turnover. The Veterans Affairs Department had the highest attrition rate in government, at 7.1%, followed by the Army, Air Force and Treasury Department.
The Environmental Protection Agency saw the lowest attrition rate at 4.1%, followed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, State Department, Commerce Department and NASA. VA’s attrition mirrored that of feds in health positions, which was also 7.1%. The entire health care industry has seen high turnover since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Partnership noted, a trend that could cause problems as “the pandemic is ongoing and continues to require a robust, whole-of-government response.” VA in particular has struggled with vacancies, though the department had made some progress filling openings in recent years thanks in large part due to special hiring authorities Congress has provided. This year, however, the number of unfilled positions began to grow once again.
The government fared better last year keeping employees in STEM or cybersecurity, with just 5% of those workers quitting or retiring.
The Small Business Administration saw the largest growth in its attrition rate, jumping from 4.5% in fiscal 2020 to 6.1% last year. That was followed by the National Science Foundation, Treasury Department and Air Force. Only the Justice Department, General Services Administration and Nuclear Regulatory Commission saw their leave rates tick down.
Federal employees over 60 years old left government at the highest rate, with nearly 17% departing, though almost all of those workers retired. The Partnership highlighted the next highest leave rate—those under 30—as more problematic.
“Government already struggles to attract and hire young talent, so it must ensure that young people are not only getting hired into the federal workforce but also staying in it,” the group said.
Female employees left government at a slightly higher rate than men last year, with 6.4% quitting or retiring. The Partnership called on agencies to improve work-life balance to improve those figures. Feds outside the Washington area typically saw much higher attrition rates than those inside the Beltway. Nearly one in 10 employees in South Dakota left their federal jobs last year, as well as 7.1% in California and 6.7% in Texas and Florida. Inside the capital region, where about one-in-five federal employees work, only 5.2% left.