TSA Seeks To Hire 6,000 New Front-Line Workers

2020 was a challenging year with airlines and airports having to perform the tough task of reducing operational expenditures, including workforce reductions, as a result of reduced travel activity. As the light at the end of this metaphorical tunnel gets closer and the travel situation improves, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is looking to fill 6,000 front-line workers by this summer.

TSA Seeks To Hire 6,000 New Front-Line Workers
While it looks like early retirements were offered at the start of the pandemic, there appears to be no record of large-scale TSA layoffs – especially when compared to airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Preparing for the summer

Getting the message out now, the TSA issued a press release announcing its latest nationwide recruiting efforts. The government agency responsible for airport security is looking for more than 6,000 Transportation Security Officer (TSO) positions by summer 2021.

“TSOs are a critical first-line defense in securing our nation’s commercial air transportation system…Each day, our officers screen hundreds of thousands of airline travelers ensuring they arrive at their destinations safely. We expect to screen a higher number of travelers regularly by the summer months and will need additional officers to support our critical mission.” -Melanie Harvey, acting Executive Assistant Administrator for TSA’s Security Operations.

The decision to increase its front-line workforce is based on “anticipated seasonal travel trends in the months ahead and the progress of COVID-19 vaccinations for the general public,” the agency states.

US Passengers Getty
The US aviation market is anticipating a strong recovery, primarily with the help of vaccines. Photo: Getty Images

Starting early

With so many positions to be filled, the TSA’s idea to start in late February sounds like a smart move.

The TSA says that these national efforts are being launched to recruit new employees in support of screening operations at approximately 430 airports nationwide. Efforts to seek out part-time and full-time individuals already include:

  • Targeted recruitment,
  • Virtual job fairs,
  • Opportunities in dozens of cities.

The agency is hoping that its “access to medical coverage, vacation and sick leave, and retirement plans” will be enticing to prospective candidates and adds that it is “committed to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment and encourages individuals of all backgrounds to apply, including military veterans and persons with disabilities.”

For those interested, the TSA has provided a link to a website listing opportunities. A brief glance at this link shows that many permanent part-time positions across the country start at $16.51/hour, while full-time permanent positions start at $34,446.

No layoffs in 2020?

Given the devastation to the travel industry in 2020 – especially with how many airline workers have been laid-off – we thought it was strange that the TSA is already growing its workforce. Indeed, even the agency’s own numbers show that full 2020 passenger volume was only 39% of 2019. Many airline executives and other industry experts have even openly stated that recovery to 2019 levels will take two to four years.

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Despite the huge drop in air travel, it looks like the agency managed to avoid large-scale layoffs. A quick search only resulted in us finding the following workforce changes:

  • An early-May article by Government Executive said that the TSA instructed all regional executives to reduce all part-time screeners—who typically work 28-32 hours per week—down to 20-hour schedules.
  • A late-May 2020 Federal News Network article reporting that the TSA would be offering early retirements to employees across the agency.

If it’s true that the TSA avoided large-scale layoffs and only implemented the above changes, it must be anticipating a swift recovery in the next few months, with pent-up travel demand leading to a very busy summer for airports. This anticipated ramp-up, in addition to increased screening, might put these 6,000 new workers to good use.

What do you think of the TSA’s drive to hire 6,000 employees? Let us know in the comments.