"These job losses are a preview of the effects of sequestration, because it's already taken place in some agencies and will likely continue with more spending reductions," said Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.
The wane in federal jobs is due largely to workers leaving federal agencies facing about $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years, Fuller said. Federal agencies have been freezing jobs as workers retire or leave for the private sector.
Aerospace and defense contractors have also been feeling the pain for months. Gross domestic product slipped for the first time in four years in the fourth quarter of 2012, largely from defense spending cutbacks.
"It's incredibly ironic that just as the private sector seems poised to take off, cutbacks in federal spending are slamming the brakes on growth," said Dan Stohr, spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association. "The cuts will have a ripple effect through the economy, triggering significant layoffs and potentially putting national security at risk."
For the 800,000 civilians in the federal defense workforce, the cuts have been brutal. They've prompted the Pentagon to lay off 46,000 short-term and contract employees, a process that was in full force in February.
Jesus Ramos, 43, joined the ranks of unemployed federal workers on Feb. 27, his one-year anniversary as a supply technician at Pearl Harbor naval station.
He said that his captain had written letters declaring his crew was "mission essential," a move that might have allowed Ramos to stay put. "But it was above the captain's head. They cut me off at noon," said the father of two.
A veteran who spent 20 years with the Marines, Ramos said he's applying to all sorts of employers, including Hawaiian Airlines and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I'm a Marine, so when it comes to leadership, management, whatever it is, I can do it," he said.