WASHINGTON (AP) The new White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was saying her third goodbye on camera to a staff member who is leaving within under 24 hours when she told reporters, “I promise we will have a press shop.” She continued, “Not everyone is leaving.”
Throughout this month’s White House complex, it’s a scene and further evidence that The White House is immune from what’s been dubbed “the great resignation” as employers battle to fill vacancies and employees seek new positions at record levels.
The administration is going through unprecedentedly frequent staff turnovers as the president Joe Biden nears 18 months of his presidency. The long hours, the low morale, and comparatively poor pay harm both the top staff and the more significant number of junior aides that help keep their place in the White House functioning.
It’s not uncommon for staff to be replaced in this phase of the presidency; however, the speed of the changes is sometimes shocking 2/3 of staff in the White House press shop, large portions of the COVID-19 Response team, two vice counsellors for the president and the employee who oversees Twitter for the White House. White House Twitter accounts are all departing within a couple of weeks.
A portion of this is due to purpose. Traditionally, White House staff were told to leave by July or to delay leaving till after November’s elections, as per former and current officials.
However, the churn, especially in the top ranks, is a distant memory in contrast to the chaotic first year of the presidency of Donald Trump, who hired and fired staff at an unprecedented rate. Additionally, Biden’s Biden White House staffing was more stable than the previous administrations at the beginning of its tenure, which made the recent and coming departures more apparent.
The totality of Biden’s turnover won’t be known until the end of the month, at which point Biden’s White House is required to send the annual report on its salary to Congress.
Biden advisers insist that the departures do not have anything to do with the president’s poor poll numbers but rather are a natural change for staffers, some of who also worked for long hours working on the campaign, seeking to improve their quality of life. The aides stressed that replacements have been found for the majority of the staff members who are leaving and that there are no crucial roles that will go vacant.
“It’s a normal time for this level of turnover in any administration,” said White House spokesperson Emilie Simons. “Government service involves sacrifice, and staff often have young children or promising careers in the private sector they put on hold, or opportunities for advancement within the administration or through graduate school.”
Many of the aides who have left are moving to Federal agencies that have more money than the smaller Executive Office of the President. They are often able to raise their pay and reduce their workload.
In many ways, the changes reflect a broader economic trend. The Biden White House has championed this in the past. A traditionally tight labour market has given people a massive advantage in seeking better-paying positions appropriate to their post-pandemic life.
“We’ve seen these historic levels of quitting,” stated Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “We’ve also witnessed a speedy employment growth which means that people are profiting from the current situation, gaining new jobs, and earning better wages. From the perspective of workers’ viewpoint, this is pretty much positive.”
According to Labour Department data, more than 4 million people have left their jobs every month in the last year, accounting for a third of workers quitting their jobs every month, with the majority going in search of other employment opportunities.
“It’s a worker’s market right now,” the then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last year, just months before she quit for a job at the news channel MSNBC. “We are aware of this. People are looking for more dependable benefits. They’re seeking greater wages.”
The White House has bristled at the phrase “great resignation” and has attempted to frame it as the kind of thing Bharat Ramamurti, Director of the National Economic Council, calls the “great upgrade.”
Congress determines the President’s Executive Office budget, and the budget remains essentially the same even as the costs have increased, including those triggered by the coronavirus reaction.
Biden also increased the size of his staff after he joined his first term in the White House, owing in large part to the centralization and centralized nation of the national COVID-19 mitigation and climate policy in the West Wing. The report for 2021 showed an average wage of $94,000. This is 40% more than the average household earnings yet lower than what highly-credentialed personnel could make in the private sector.
“White House salaries tend to be well below the salaries that people have before they come into the White House,” said Kevin Hassett, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Trump administration. “This is a natural consequence of the fact that presidents can choose top-of-the-line individuals in their fields. Therefore, when they can return to their previous professions, their salaries will likely increase for most people.”
Veterans of former West Wings who serve in or have contacts with Biden administration officials have reported a distinct absence of happiness in all of the White House complex. The pandemic has slowed down some of the advantages of the job, which typically make the working more manageable according to them.
“These aren’t perks in the superficial sense, but they’re moments that build your team, sharpen focus on the mission, and recharge your batteries,” said Eric Schultz, principal deputy White House press secretary after the Obama administration. “Nobody goes to the White House to coast, but the jobs are draining, so inspiration along the way can mean a lot.”
The outbreak resulted in a few birthday celebrations in the bowling alley in the middle of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It reduced the chance to offer family members a tour of the old workplace. In December, there was a time when the White House was unable to organize staff holidays because of COVID-19. Travel is just beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. In the first year of Biden’s office, most staff couldn’t even be at the South Lawn driveway to view the president’s departure or arrival at the end of Marine One.
The COVID security measures surrounding Biden himself, such as screening for people who could be in contact with him every day, meaning that most staff members have very few personal interactions with their bosses. For some staff who have left, the highlight of their time at the White House came when former President Barack Obama visited the White House and spoke to staff to mark the occasion of the birthday celebrations of the Affordable Care Act. The White House’s aides said that Obama spent nearly five hours inside the White House and was a regular at having a chat with staff and, in many instances taking more time with team than Biden could have.
Biden, according to aides, has revived a pre-pandemic custom welcoming departure photos for employees and their families who have left the administration.