The ACT has lost one in 10 of its federal public service jobs since the Coalition came to power, as regional cities in Victoria and NSW amassed bureaucrats.
Canberra shed 7200 Australian Public Service roles in the five years after 2013 under federal government efforts to downsize its workforce of Commonwealth public servants.
Public service commission figures show the nation's capital lost the most bureaucrats among cities and regional areas as budget cuts and the Coalition's cap on staffing levels forced down public servant numbers.
A diversifying territory economy is credited with saving the ACT from the kind of economic hit suffered when the Howard government drastically reduced its public service workforce in its first term.
The Coalition has cut Canberra's public servant numbers every year since winning power in 2013, when the city's workforce of federal bureaucrats was 64,320.
Geelong, and the Central Coast in NSW, emerged the big winners from the Coalition's redistribution of the federal public service's workforce.
Both centres reported an economic dividend from their growing population of bureaucrats, as Commonwealth agencies brought more business and construction to their cities.
Canberra's business lobby and the ACT government responded to the APS commission figures by criticising the Coalition's policy of moving bureaucrats from the city to other regions.
The Canberra Business Chamber said the shift in staff appeared to be driven by politics.
Its chief executive, Michael Schaper, criticised the lack of planning.
"This decentralisation doesn't seem to have happened in a coherent, sophisticated or strategic way. It's seemed ad hoc," he said.
"Do we want to build up a critical mass of employment in regional Australia or just throw people around when it suits? Is the government even thinking about the consequences in Canberra?"
He said it wasn't only public servants who suffered from this approach but also businesses that served government agencies, because they needed time to plan and invest.
However, as only one in three workers in Canberra were government employees, Dr Schaper said the city had become more resilient to the "one-off shocks" of APS relocations.
He pointed to the city's burgeoning private sector, which, in areas such as cyber security and defence support, now had some of the country's most-skilled workforces.
"We are starting to be as competitive as some of the bigger cities, at least in some labour markets, and to hold our own.
"Canberra's no longer a company town, where we all work for the business up on the hill."
A spokeswoman for ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the federal government's decision to slash APS jobs had hurt the territory economy. The ACT was estimated to lose $110 million in gross state product for every 1000 APS jobs cut, she said.
The Coalition's decentralisation plan aimed to appease the Nationals and was driven by little more than ideology, the spokeswoman said.
"The federal Coalition's policy of decentralisation has been, and continues to be, the biggest threat to the ACT's economy," she said.
While the ACT's public servant workforce fell, the surrounding capital region was part of a minority of areas to win Commonwealth jobs, gaining 120 public servants, or an increase of 17 per cent.
ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja disputed the use of public service commission data to measure changes in public servant job figures, saying it no longer counted some agencies included in 2013.
One agency he referred to as an example, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, is still counted in public service commission data. The other, the Australian Signals Directorate, does not reveal its staff numbers.
The vast majority of the 16 agencies no longer counted in public service commission data had their staff move through machinery of government changes to other APS agencies counted in the commission's data.
There were more than 15,000 additional Canberrans in jobs since the Coalition came to government, Senator Seselja said.
He said thousands of APS positions were lost at the end of 2013 due to decisions of the former Labor government to cut roles.
The Coalition pledged to reduce the public service by about 12,000 jobs before it won office in 2013.
However, after taking power, the Abbott government said the previous Labor administration had left behind a funding shortfall that required 14,500 staff to leave.
Public service commission figures show north Brisbane grew its APS workforce as the Home Affairs Department enlarged its footprint. North-west Perth, and Bunbury in Western Australia, emerged as other significant job winners under the Coalition.
Outback Northern Territory gained more than 200 public servants, but Darwin suffered one of the largest cuts (830 jobs, or 39 per cent) as Human Services, Social Services, Environment and Defence departments downsized.
The Northern Territory's Labor government treasurer Nicole Manison said the cut to federal public service jobs was a brutal blow to Territorians, when they needed it the least.
"Territorians deserve a government that invests in the territory and local jobs," she said.
More than 400 Australian Taxation Office jobs moved to the Central Coast after a 2013 Coalition election promise to base public servants in Gosford, in the marginal federal electorate Robertson.
Central Coast mayor Jane Smith said the influx of ATO public servants into Gosford had made a noticeable difference to the city. The move was estimated to bring $4.2 million to the Central Coast in economic activity each year.
"We're seeing more activity in the city centre, but we're also seeing new businesses pop up to cater for that activity," she said.
"It's instilled confidence in the town centre going ahead, and then attracted more interest."
Geelong has gained 870 federal public service jobs, the bulk of them in the National Disability Insurance Agency, based in the emerging insurance hub. Australian Bureau of Statistics jobs have also grown in the Victorian city.
Geelong Chamber of Commerce president Mark Edmonds said the NDIA's growth in the city, combined with WorkSafe Victoria's workforce and Deakin University's campus, had created a sweet spot of economic growth.
"The spin-off has been noticeable. Areas of Geelong that were sitting there, quietly bubbling along, are now a hive of activity."