A Profile of the California Federal Workforce
The federal government employed 159,077* workers in California at the end of fiscal 2020, representing about 8% of the total federal workforce. Only the District of Columbia and Virginia had more federal employees. In addition, more Californians work for federal agencies than for the entire University of California system, making the government one of the largest employers in the state. This profile focuses on full-time, nonseasonal, civilian federal employees in California, with the exception of those individuals who work in the legislative or judicial branches, the intelligence community or for the U.S. Postal Service.
*There were 159,077 full-time employees in California at the end of fiscal 2020. This number was provided to the Partnership by the Office of Personnel Management. All other data and analysis below relies on FedScope, the government’s online workforce data tool, which classifies the location of some employees for security reasons and therefore slightly undercounts the total federal workforce in California.
Data on the University of California Workforce: “Staff Workforce Profile 2019,” University of California Office of the President. https://bit.ly/3um3Q8E (accessed May 19, 2021).
Percentages throughout may not appear to add up to 100 due to rounding.
Top Employers and Occupations
At the end of fiscal 2020, the departments of the Navy and Veterans Affairs accounted for more than 50% of the federal workforce in California.
The nation is served best when our government draws employees with diverse perspectives, backgrounds and skills from society to tackle our greatest challenges. While 37.8% of the total federal workforce identified as people of color, 50.0% of the federal employees in California identified themselves as people of color. According to Census Bureau data, in 2019 people of color made up 63.5% of the California population.
People of color make up the majority of the California federal workforce from the GS-1 to GS-5 level, but white employees make up the majority of the workforce at the GS-6 level and above.
In California, 41.6% of federal employees are female and 58.4% are male, while nationwide 43.2% are female and 56.8% are male. Considerably fewer women than men hold senior positions in California, similar to the breakdown of the federal workforce as a whole.
In California, 7.3% of the federal workforce is younger than 30 compared with 44.2% who are 50 or older. Government-wide, 6.8% are younger than 30, while about 44.2% are 50 or older.
The General Schedule is a 15-level, government-wide pay and classification system used for the majority of the federal workforce. The workforce is divided into entry-level (GS-1 through GS-9), mid-level (GS-10 through GS-12) and senior-level (GS-13 through GS-15). Senior Executive Service employees are classified above GS-15 and serve in the positions just below presidential appointees. At the end of fiscal 2020, there were 190 SES members located in California.
Percentages below do not add to 100% due to the 36% of the federal workforce that is not classified by GS level.
Hires and Departures
In fiscal 2020, 11,159 full-time employees were hired in California, while 7,479 left federal service voluntarily by quitting or retiring. Departures consistently outpaced hires starting at the GS-12 level. Federal employees who voluntarily left the civil service in fiscal 2020 had an average length of service of 16 years.
More than 30% of employees on board at the end of fiscal 2020 will be eligible to retire within five years.