By Grace Donnelly
February 13, 2018

The Trump Administration has seen the highest rate of turnover among White House staff in decades.

During the president’s first year, the administration saw a 34% turnover rate. This is the highest of any recent White House, according to a Brookings Institution report that tracked departures of senior officials over the last 40 years.

The next-highest turnover rate for an administration’s first year was Ronald Reagan’s, with 17% of senior aides leaving their posts in 1981.

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton saw much lower turnovers during their first year in office—9%, 6%, and 11%, respectively.

This time last year, Reince Priebus was still chief of staff, Sean Spicer was still press secretary, and Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka were still strategizing and advising.

Leaders across corporate America are also concerned about employee retention. The turnover rate has been climbing as the job market has recovered from the financial crisis.

In 2017, the turnover rate of the entire U.S. workforce was 3.6% on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That figure is closer to 4% for the private sector and less than 2% for all federal employees in 2017.

Looking at a much smaller subset of the workforce—just 61 senior officials were tracked by Kathryn Dunn-Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution—single departures make a more significant impact.

Still, of those 61 senior officials, 21 resigned, were fired, or reassigned during the first year, and the seniority of people leaving is “extraordinarily high,” according to Dunn-Tenpas. They include one chief of staff, two press secretaries, two national security advisors, three deputy national security advisers, and five communications directors.

Of the 12 positions considered most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same people as when the president took office.

History shows that the turnover will likely increase during Trump’s second year.

Reagan’s staff saw 40% turnover in 1982, while the Bush and Clinton administrations each saw 27% turnover in their second years, according Dunn-Tenpas’s research.

And 2018 has already seen a number of high-level departures from the White House, including staff secretary Rob Porter, third-ranking justice department official Rachel Brand, and speech writer David Sorenson. Outside of roles integral to the president’s day-to-day, many more high-level executive branch positions are still open and with the culture of chaos that has existed in the White Hall walls, it’s unclear how long they’ll remain unfilled.

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