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2011 Federal Government Jobs Outlook

2011 Federal Government Jobs Outlook

photo | flickr | johanohrling

Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert

Skill Mismatch

As in the private sector, some government jobs are hard to fill despite high unemployment levels — after all, the federal government employs only so many retail, food-service and construction workers. “A lot of folks looking for jobs don’t have a skill set the government is looking for,” Palguta says.

If your career calls for specialized knowledge like healthcare, security/protection, compliance or enforcement or you have math, IT, science, engineering, accounting or analysis experience, you’ll find the line to get into Uncle Sam’s shop is short. “For those jobs, the competition will not be as bad as you might think,” he says.

Cybersecurity Jobs Especially Secure

Hiring hot spots include the new Cyber Security Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, the suburban Washington, DC, home to the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency. While the exact number of civil service, civilian and military workers the government is hiring for cybersecurity positions is classified, it’s in the thousands, says Ronald Sanders, senior executive advisor at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm based in McLean, Virginia.

“Any career with the word ‘cyber’ in it will have a long, lucrative future,” he predicts. “Every federal agency, without regard to mission, has a need for cybersecurity professionals because every agency has systems they have to secure and protect. It’s going to be a growth area because it’s of critical national importance in the civil service and the many contractors that support the federal government.”

Cybersecurity isn’t just for computer geeks either. “Critical thinking and analysis skills are sometimes more important than technical skills in these jobs, where connecting the dots is important,” Sanders says.

From KSAs to Resumes

No matter which government job you’re applying for, you should find the process easier, thanks to new hiring procedures that rely on resumes rather than the old, lengthy online questions and answers about knowledge, skills and abilities, or KSAs. But don’t expect those changes to speed up the months-long government hiring process immediately, because agencies will be slow to change the recruitment methods they’ve used for decades.

State and Local Hiring Down

At the local level, 2010 wasn’t a great year to be a government employee, and 2011 isn’t looking so hot either. The BLS reports local governments shed 76,000 workers in the first nine months of 2010, including 50,000 educators. State governments laid off 7,000 employees during the same period.

Even if the economy has a brisk upturn in 2011, the outlook for state and local hiring would still be poor for at least a year, says Richard Clinch, director of economic development for the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore Merrick School of Business. State income and property taxes are paid the year after they’re earned, so a turnaround in state budgets will lag the economic recovery by a year. Even if taxpayers earn more and their home values rise, states won’t see the resulting improved tax revenue until folks pay their taxes in April 2012, he says.

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