A Profile of the 2023 Federal Workforce

A Profile of the 2023 Federal Workforce

The federal government currently employs over 2 million people who deliver a wide range of essential services to the American public. These professionals play a crucial role in protecting our national security, promoting public health, driving economic development and more. Nonpartisan civil servants are hired based on merit to serve under other nonpartisan civil servants and political appointees. Political appointees set policy and directives, and civil servants carry out duties to fulfill those objectives, regardless of the political party in power and their own political views. Their unwavering commitment to the nation is evident in their diligent efforts to implement policies and provide services nationwide. They are a fundamental part of a well-functioning government.   

The Partnership for Public Service analyzed data from the Office of Personnel Management’s online data source, FedScope, to highlight the various aspects of the federal workforce, including employment demographics, hiring trends and other statistics. With this data, members of the public, federal stakeholders, the media and others can gain insights into the composition, size and dynamics of federal employment trends. The data also enables federal leaders to make informed decisions and develop policies related to the federal workforce. 

Unless otherwise noted, data in this analysis are for full-time, nonseasonal, permanent civilian employees of the executive branch as of September 2023. The data does not include employees of the legislative or judicial branches, the intelligence community, the U.S. Postal Service, foreign service officers or locally employed staff within the Department of State, or uniformed military personnel. Contractors also are not included.  

Percentages throughout may not appear to add up to 100 due to rounding. 

Size of the Federal Workforce

Between fiscal 2019 and 2023, the federal workforce grew by more than 140,000 employees, a change of over 7%. The federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was likely a factor behind the increase in the federal workforce from 2020 to 2023, as some agencies rapidly hired employees to manage the public health and economic emergency.  

The largest increase occurred in 2023, with an addition of over 80,000 federal employees, pushing the size of the full-time, permanent federal workforce to over 2 million employees. The growth was partly due to major federal investments such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The significant increase in federal funding led to a surge in targeted hiring for key positions, including scientists, engineers, construction managers and clean water experts across several major agencies to manage the influx of funds and the complexity of new infrastructure projects. Changes in federal policies and priorities can impact the size of the federal workforce. 

Analyzing the federal workforce as a percentage of the total U.S. population for the past 15 years reveals the workforce has represented approximately 0.6% of the population. This percentage remained stable as the population and workforce have grown, indicating that the federal workforce has kept pace with population growth. However, it is still a significant decrease from 1945, when the workforce represented a historic 2.5% of the entire population. 

Top Agency Employers

Defense and national security-related agencies account for nearly 71% of the entire civilian federal workforce outside of the US Postal Service. The Department of Veterans Affairs comprised over 20% of the entire federal workforce and even grew by 9% in fiscal 2023, surpassing 400,000 employees. The next largest agencies were the Navy, Army and Department of Homeland Security.  

Agencies and departments that experienced the largest increases in their workforces from fiscal 2020 to 2023 include those charged with protecting the country’s national security, such as the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection, and provide critical services to the public, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. 

Top Occupations

Over 310,000 employees in the federal government are in an occupation in the medical field. The medical field encompasses physicians, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, dental officers, veterinarians and many other public health occupations. For example, at the end of fiscal 2023, there were nearly 3,000 physical therapists at the Department of Veterans Affairs that help rehabilitate wounded warriors across the nation.  

Another 300,000 federal employees occupy positions in the administrative and clerical services field. Occupations in this field range from program analysts and human resource managers to secretaries and facility managers. For example, surface maintenance specialists with the Department of the Army analyze problems with military equipment maintenance. 

Some of the top hired occupations of fiscal 2023 included nurses, medical support assistants, compliance inspection and support, and contact representatives.  


At the end of fiscal 2023, 80% of the federal workforce was located outside the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The locations with the largest federal employee populations were Washington, D.C. – 7.3%, Virginia – 6.6%, California – 6.5%, Maryland – 6.4%, Texas – 5.7% and Florida – 4.2%. Federal employees in U.S. territories comprise 0.63% of the workforce, with the majority of those being in Puerto Rico. One percent of the federal workforce was in foreign countries 

Note: figures do not include members of the foreign service


In fiscal 2023, The federal workforce was older than the American workforce at large. Employees under 30 represented just over 7% of the federal workforce while they constituted nearly 20% of the employed U.S. labor force in 2023. Federal employees between the ages of 30 and 49 made up about half of the entire workforce. Over 42% of federal employees were over the age of 50, compared to nearly 33% of the U.S. labor workforce.  

Race & Ethnicity

Sixty percent of the federal workforce identified as white compared to 76% in the private sector. Nearly 19% of the federal workforce identified as Black and 10% identified as Hispanic compared to 13% and 19% of the U.S. labor force, respectively. 

While 40% of the federal workforce was comprised of individuals who identify as part of a racial or ethnic minority group, this number diminishes significantly at higher levels on the General Schedule scale. People of color make up much of the federal workforce in positions from the GS-2 to GS-6 level, these grade levels typically comprise lower and entry-level administrative positions. White employees make up much of the workforce above the GS-7 level, which consists of mid-level technical and first-level supervisory positions and top-level technical and supervisory positions. 

Twenty-six percent of career Senior Executive Service members identified as a person of color in fiscal 2023, a small increase from 25% in the previous year. Of the federal workforce that was not on the GS scale, 37% identified as a person of color. 


The overall federal workforce was 55% male and 45% female, compared to 53% male and 47% female in the total U.S. labor force.  

Women made up the majority of the federal workforce in GS-3 to GS-9 positions. Notably, 73% of GS-6 employees are female. Men made up much of the workforce above the GS-10 level, the SES and positions not on the GS pay scale. 

Veteran Status

Individuals who have served in the uniformed military service constituted a considerable segment of the federal workforce. At the end of fiscal 2023, 30% of federal employees were veterans compared to 5% of the total employed U.S. civilian labor force. In the same year, 25% of new federal hires were veterans. 

Disability Status 

In fiscal 2023, 21% of the federal workforce identified as having a disability or serious health condition. Of those employees, 2.7% indicated having a targeted or serious health condition and 7.8% identified as having other disabilities or serious health conditions. The other 10.5% of employees with a disability had either an unlisted or undisclosed disability.  

Self-identification of disability status is voluntary. For a full list of targeted disabilities or serious health conditions see OPM’s SF-256 self-identification of disability form.  


Thirty-two percent of federal employees hold a bachelor’s degree, and another 21% have an advanced degree. Federal workers possess bachelor’s and advanced degrees at a higher rate than the overall U.S. labor force—53.8% to 40.4% in 2023. 

General Schedule

Over 27% of employees were on pay plans outside of the GS-scale at the end of fiscal 2023. More than 40 agencies or agency subcomponents use different pay schedules from the GS schedule. One example is foreign service officers who work for the departments of State, Commerce or Agriculture while living in another country for a few years at a time. These federal employees are paid under the foreign service pay plan. 

Senior Executive Service

The Senior Executive Service, or SES, is the executive branch corps of senior leaders serving in key positions just below agencies’ top political appointees. As of fiscal 2023, there were 7,753 career SES employees. This represents an increase of 272 from fiscal 2022, the largest increase in SES members in the past decade. Over 70% of the SES members were located in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Thirty-nine percent of the SES members were female and 61% male, which continues a slow but steady trend of more women joining the SES. 

Time to Hire

According to OPM, from 2021 to 2023 the average time to hire increased by over four days from 97 days (about 3 months) in 2021 to 101 days in 2023. Efforts are continuously being made to streamline and improve the federal hiring process to reduce time-to-hire and improve efficiency, but it remains longer on average compared to private sector hiring timelines, which typically ranges from 30-45 days. 

Hiring and Departures

In fiscal 2023, the number of new employees hired by the federal government was over 200,000, an increase of more than 45,000 from the previous year.

Nearly half of all new hires were in entry level GS roles. GS-7 and GS-5 positions had the most individuals hired with 26,395 and 23,841, respectively. Those hired for positions not on the GS scale accounted for more than 50,000 new employees while 200 new hires were placed in career SES positions. 


The government-wide attrition rate in fiscal 2023 was 5.9%, a lower figure than the 7.6% rate in fiscal 2022 but consistent with the 6.1% rate in fiscal 2021. In fiscal 2023, those quitting constituted about 52% of the overall government-wide attrition, with retirements making up 48%.  

Note: Attrition is defined as the number of voluntary separations from federal civil service in fiscal 2023 as a share of the total employees onboard at the beginning of the fiscal year. The government-wide attrition calculation includes only those who quit or retired from federal civil service. Individual transfers between agencies are not included. 

Attrition by Age 

The fiscal 2023 attrition rate for employees under 30 was 9%, significantly higher than the government-wide average. Of all age groups, employees who are 30-49 years old—making up half of the government—had the lowest attrition rate in fiscal 2023 at 8%. Federal employees over age 50 had the highest attrition rate of all groups at 19%, mostly due to retirements. 

Attrition by length of service  

The fiscal 2023 attrition rate for employees with under five years of service was 7.4% and mostly comprised of those who quit their jobs. For those with five to nine years of service and 10-19 years of service, the attrition rates were 4.1% and 3.4%, respectively. Both fell below the 5.9% government-wide average.   

For those with 20-29 years of service and over 30 years of service, the attrition rates climbed to 7.2% and 13.3%, reflecting a substantial number of retirements. These patterns closely mirror the attrition rate trends by age: Those with 10-19 years of service had the lowest attrition rate, while those with very few or many years of service had much higher rates. 


To maintain a world-class workforce and deliver effective services to the American public, federal agencies must recruit young talent and employees with the necessary skills for both current and future needs. Ensuring a diverse workforce is essential, as is developing leadership capabilities within the organization, improving hiring processes and implementing policies to retain high-performing workers. These measures collectively enable the federal government to effectively address both present and emerging challenges effectively while fostering an environment that attracts and retains top talent.


Unless otherwise noted, all data are from FedScope (fedscope.opm.gov) from the Office of Personnel Management, for all full-time, nonseasonal, permanent employees from September 2023. 

Data on U.S. Population: “Quick Facts,” U.S. Census Bureau 

Data on the Civilian Labor Force: “Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by age, sex, and race,” Bureau of Labor Statistics. NOTE: People are considered employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey reference week. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment. 

Data on the Civilian Labor Force Educational Level: “Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population 25 years and over by educational attainment, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity,” Bureau of Labor Statistics

Time to Hire (T2H) dashboard – U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Note: The time to hire is the average number of calendar days between hiring manager’s request to hire and candidate’s start date, weighted on the total number of hires per agency. The OPM T2H dashboard “governmentwide” data includes only the Chief Human Capital Officers Act agencies.