Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB Page: 4 of 10
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Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB
According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal workforce is composed of
an estimated 2 million civilian workers,' and several federal agencies collect, compile, and
publish statistics about this workforce. Sources may vary in their totals due to differences in how
federal workforce statistics are compiled. Some sources rely on "head counts" of employees (such
as the Office of Management and Budget [OMB]), some on total hours worked (OPM), some on
surveys of employing agencies, and others on self-identification by workers surveyed in their
In addition, federal civilian employee databases may exclude particular departments, agencies, or
branches of government. Some may also account for temporary or seasonal employees (such as
those employed by the U.S. Census) depending on the time of year the statistics are generated.
This report focuses on differences in methodologies, including exclusions, and the frequency of
data collection employed by OMB and OPM to determine the size and scope of the federal
workforce. These differences will facilitate the selection of appropriate data for specific purposes.
Comparing Methodologies: On-Board Personnel vs. Full-Time
One example of a key methodological distinction is the difference between "full-time
equivalents" (FTEs) and on-board personnel. The following two examples illustrate how the FTE
and on-board methods can be used to derive different federal workforce totals.
Method 1: Full-Time Equivalent Employment (OMB)
Full-time equivalent employment is defined as the total number of regular straight-time hours
(not including overtime or holiday hours) worked by employees divided by the number of
compensable hours applicable to each fiscal year. Work years, or FTEs, are not employee "head
counts." One work year, or one FTE, is equivalent to 2,080 hours3 of work.
Table 1 offers examples in which there is a difference between the actual number of people and
the number of FTEs working the same number of total hours. It also illustrates how measuring
employment by hours can substantially change the perception of the number of employees it takes
to accomplish the work.
1 Office of Personnel Management (OPM), March 2016, available at http://www.fedscope.opm.gov/. This estimate
does not include the agencies and departments listed at http://www.fedscope.opm.gov/datadefn/aehri_sdm.asp#cpdf3.
2 This section was created with assistance from Barbara Schwemle, analyst in American National Government.
3 The figure of 2,080 hours in the work year is derived as follows: 8 hours per day multiplied by 10 days (in a 2-week
pay period) equals 80 hours; 80 hours multiplied by 26 pay periods (in a year) equals 2,080 work hours.
Congressional Research Service
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Jennings, Julie. Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB, report, December 7, 2016; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc958687/m1/4/: accessed May 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.