Infographic: Which U.S. Departments Were REALLY Under Furlough?

We’d all heard the U.S. government was closed, but which federal programs were affected most? As you may suspect, defense skates by but progress has halted.

Our government has been fighting–though it looks like, today, they’ve finally made up. And amidst debates on policy, federal employees and all of us who depend on federal services have been caught in the budget-freezing crossfire. But even when the government is shut down, not everything is closed. (In which case, you may be wondering, who in the government has still been working?)


Dan Delany created this simple infographic to give you some perspective on furloughed employees by department. Depending on your definition of necessity, what you’ll see may look totally sensible, or it may look totally crazy.

For instance, Defense makes up roughly one-third of all federal employees, and about half of its staff are exempt from furlough. And so that means it has almost 318,000 employees who are relatively unaffected (but 400,000 are essentially out of work). When you add in Homeland Security and Veteran Affairs, the number of exempt employees mostly grows.

On one hand, I think we’d all agree that these represent some pretty essential services! But what Delany’s infographic demonstrates well is that Department of Health and Human Service’s ~40,000 furloughed employees, the Department of Education’s ~4,000 furloughed employees, and the National Science Foundation’s ~2,000 furloughed employees are a statistical drop in the bucket compared to those working under the broader definition of military/defense services.

In turn, other (what most of us would call, pretty essential!) programs like the WIC Food Program, NIH Research Grants, and, as we’ve seen already in salmonella outbreaks, FDA inspections have all-but disappeared.

Delany has visualized the halting of progress and assistance in the name of terrorism and more general defense. He’s shown what the US cares about most when they’re forced to care about something the most. And for all of our sakes, I hope the government made a massive mistake. Because otherwise, we’re in an absolutely obscene amount of danger at every moment.

See the infographic here.


[Hat tip: FlowingData]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.