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How many NC workers are seeing shutdown impacts? Depends on who you ask

January 9th, 2019

— As the ongoing partial government shutdown inches closer to becoming the longest in U.S. history, no one seems to know exactly how many federal employees in North Carolina are going without a paycheck.

The shutdown began in the waning days of 2018 as President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders clashed over Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border. At least parts of nine of 15 federal agencies have been impacted by the impasse, and Senate Democrats estimated more than 800,000 federal employees nationwide have been furloughed or have been working without pay since Dec. 22.


Data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management show more than 44,000 civilian federal employees worked in North Carolina as of June 2018, the most recent data available. The state ranks 12th in the county among federal employment, just behind Ohio.

The bulk of North Carolina’s federal civilian workers are employed by agencies not affected by the shutdown, such the departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force. Almost 34,000 people in the state are employed by those agencies.

The OPM data does not include employment figures from the Postal Service, which is not affected by the shutdown, or smaller agencies and intelligence organizations. It also doesn’t include government contractors.

But how many North Carolina-based federal workers are actually seeing the impact of the shutdown?

That depends on who you ask.

Tally up the nine departments seeing at least some impacts of the shutdown, and OPM data shows 6,318 North Carolina workers. That includes agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security. But that total is likely inaccurate because it both undercounts – by excluding agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, which have been affected by the shutdown – and overcounts – because some of the agencies it includes are only partially shutdown.

WRAL News reached out to the offices of all 12 sitting North Carolina members in the U.S. House and both of the state’s U.S. senators on Wednesday to see if they had more accurate numbers.

The office of Democratic 4th District Congressman David Price is using the 6,300 figure.

A spokesperson with Democratic 1st District Congressman G.K. Butterfield’s office estimates that 7,072 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay.

Both offices used the same data from OPM.

Spokespeople with the offices of Republican Reps. George Holding, Virginia Foxx and Mark Walker said they don’t know how many of the unfunded agencies have offices in North Carolina, nor how many workers have been affected.

As of Wednesday afternoon, none of the state’s other representatives in the House or the Senate responded to questions, nor did the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, added up the impacts for each state in its own analysis, putting North Carolina’s total affected federal workforce at about 7,800. That would include the more than 1,200 EPA employees in the state, as well as workers in several smaller agencies.

For context, those estimates amount to about as many people in the state who work in tobacco manufacturing (4,500 employees), hog farming (5,000 employees), mining and logging (6,000 employees) and apparel manufacturing (6,900 employees) as of June 2018, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

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