Government employees

Federal Employees' Wages Growing Faster Than Everybody Else's

Pay freeze over, for government types anyway.

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Nothing left to cut! But plenty to expand. Following a freeze in federal wages for a couple of years, federal employees are back to making more money and getting better raises and benefits than most private employees. Dog bites man, I know, but the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) has crunched the numbers from the most recent report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

The latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) show that wages rose 2.9 percent in the federal government in 2014, on average, compared to 1.7 percent in the private sector.

When benefits such as pensions and health care are included, federal compensation increased 2.8 percent, on average, compared to 1.3 percent in the private sector.

Federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,153 in 2014, compared to an average in the private sector of $56,350. The federal advantage in overall compensation (wages plus benefits) is even greater. Federal compensation averaged $119,934 in 2014, which was 78 percent higher than the private-sector average of $67,246.

Only three worker categories have higher average wages than civilian federal government employees: company management, utilities, and mining. Even the high-demand information technology and finance fields offer lower average wages.

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies for the Cato Institute, provided the post for FEE. He has more details over at his Cato-sponsored site on downsizing the federal government. It includes graphs that will make you sigh in despair, like the one below:

graph
Cato

(Hat tip to Scott Lincicome)

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  1. We can solve this problem by allowing private sector employees to force consumers to buy their products under threat of imprisonment, property liens, and death. Just like their public sector counterparts do.

    1. I’m Almanian, and I suppor……heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

    2. Health insurance is already ahead of the curve.

  2. Seems fair what with all the sacrifices they make for the public good. Hey, wait.

    1. Like not getting fired for shitty work!
      And retiring early with top benes!
      Yep, they’re really taking one for the team.

  3. Federal compensation averaged $119,934 in 2014, which was 78 percent higher than the private-sector average of $67,246.

    This is absolutely insane. The whole deal with shitty government jobs used to be people traded compensation for stability, the ability to be lazy as shit, and guaranteed advancement if they just put their time in. Now they still get all these things without the compensation tradeoff?!?

    The worst thing about these stats isn’t the numbers themselves. It’s the knowledge of how insanely hard these parasitic fucks will fight to prevent the slightest normalization of their compensation. And there are a shitload of them.

    1. You should come to dc and meet some of these people, it’s quite a treat.

      1. Oh, I have. It’s terrible. Just passing through the parts of Maryland and Virginia that make up the greater DC metro area is shocking to me. Everything is about the government. So many of the jobs, or businesses catering to military bases, everything. I don’t think I could possibly stand living there.

        1. meh it’s like flies to shit here, where there is easy money there is people.

          1. I know, but it’s the attitude towards it that really freaks me out. So many work for and rely on the government. It’s just creepy and weird and totally alien compared to the other places I’ve lived.

            1. It’s like imagining a whore sucking a john off, except it’s a city, sucking off about about 500+ politicians.

              *cringes*

              1. Wait, I’ve seen this porno.

        2. I’m a web developer in Maryland. If I want to make more than $45k (and that’s being optimistic) I’ve got to either work for government directly or indirectly through a contractor. And, worst of all for me, it’s all .NET and shit like that. To do anything remotely interesting, non-bureaucratic, and well-paying I have to move out of the shadow of DC. Which I’m planning on doing in the next five years.

    2. But they have to offer those high wages to attract the best parasitic, lazy as shit employees.

  4. *Throws down the Bullshit flag!*

    Civil service pay includes all of the physicians & scientist in areas like NIH & CDC among others.

    1. They also make more than scientific positions in the private sector (private scientists rank eighth).

      1. #SCIENCE!

        Way to go, Scott!

    2. A Orthopedic surgeon makes an average of $413,000 in civilian life.
      Don’t deserve some hack working with wounded troops.

      1. you should probaly stfu, when you don’t know what you are talking about.

    3. You are right, this is bullshit. They are only putting civil service in the blue data set. There are several other categories of Federal employment depending upon the agency, and Federal contractors should be counted as well (but, I believe they cannot be counted because, as I am told, there is no requirement that contract spending needs to be reported government-wide on a per-employee basis). Federal contractors are significantly more expensive and they drastically outnumber Federal employees. Obviously the red data set is a larger pool than the blue one, but all the contractors that the civil service people manage should be contributing to the blue data set, not the red one.

      1. Another way to look at it is the CATO paper is quoting the cost of government workers at $260B of the total $3.9T. That is under 7% of the entire Federal budget spent on personnel. That’s impossibly low. There are obviously lots of THINGS that are being bought with that money, but you have to be able to see that a substantially higher percentage of the budget is going into salaries, and as poorly-tracked as the budget is, lots of people are getting rich off their cut.

        1. Did you bother to even read the first fucking paragraph?

          The federal government employs 2.1 million civilian workers in hundreds of agencies at offices across the nation.1 The federal workforce imposes a substantial burden on America’s taxpayers. In 2015 wages and benefits for executive branch civilian workers will cost more than $260 billion.2

          DoD spends another $177BB on personnel, so we’re already up to over $430BB.

          And then we forget that SS, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, i.e. CHECKS account for HALF of the federal budget, so nearly $2TT. Then add in the debt of $220B.

          I know counting above ‘mine’ is hard for progtards, but you should really stretch yourself.

          1. nice 🙂

          2. Hey, NAS!
            I know Musk’s US subsidies are laughable, but I’m just found this (late to the party):
            “However, there is a reason for an increasing amount of Norse men and women going “green.” Electric car buyers can get up to $90,000 in subsidies for buying the cars ? twelve times more than the U.S. government hands out in electric car subsidies.”

            Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/11…..z3o1voyx49

          3. Not sure what you thought my point was, but I was saying that the cato paper is grossly understating the amount that the government spends on personnel. It’s not 7% of the budget.

    4. Other studies based on comparisons between similar federal and private workers find either no wage gap or a federal wage advantage. A 2012 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study found that, for comparable workers, federal wages were similar to private wages overall, with just a small two percent advantage for federal workers.13 However, the CBO also found large differences based on education levels. Among less-educated workers, the federal government pays better, but among highly educated workers, the private sector pays better.

      Statistical studies by thinktanks have found a wage advantage for federal workers. A 2010 study by the Heritage Foundation found that federal pay was 22 percent higher, on average, than private-sector pay for comparable workers.14 A 2011 American Enterprise Institute (AEI) study found that federal pay was 14 percent higher, on average, than private-sector pay for comparable workers.15 As with the CBO study, these two studies found wage differences that varied by the level of the worker?less educated workers tend to do better in the federal government, while highly educated workers might do better in the private sector.

  5. This is just the sort of fact-based, hard-to-argue-against topic that all small-government types should hammering on in an election season. Tell the voters that the average federal compensation is $120K/year, and then see if they think government needs more money.

  6. These numbers assume a lot. I considered a job with DOD earlier this year and even factoring in the benefits, it only made sense if I stayed all the way to retirement to get the pension. Even then it was trading much lower pay now for the luxury of not having to plan for my own retirement. A lot of the government employee health care options are expensive junk too, so they look like higher compensation when they are just a waste of money.

    There is certainly an argument to be made that the government is spending too much on employees, but the average government worker isn’t making out like a bandit as this would have you believe.

    1. There is certainly an argument to be made that the government is spending too much on employees, but the average government worker isn’t making out like a bandit as this would have you believe.

      And we’re supposed to believe this solely based on your anecdotes?

      1. Wages and compensation are all publicly available. Look at it yourself. Or don’t. You’re going to believe what you want anyway.

        1. But the chart fucking graphs those numbers and you still deny them, so what other than you anecdotes, which the data above contradicts, do you have?

          Oh, you were just another parasite talking shit.

    2. the average government worker isn’t making out like a bandit

      Maybe not, but many (most?) of these people have neither the skills nor demeanor to make it in the real world. In a free market system they’d be paid according to what they contribute, and would never make this kind of money. The fact WE have to pay their salaries just makes it worse.

      1. I think that’s the better way to approach the argument. Most of these people are terrible at their jobs and unimaginably rude – and we all have to deal with them sooner or later. Government employment is almost a welfare program for people that lack any social skills.

        1. Government employment is almost a welfare program for people that lack any social skills.

          On that we can agree. However, the last time I visited the DMV (not Federal, I know) I received professional and courteous service from a young lady who impressed me so much I filled out a comment card to let them know what a good worker she was. But I’m sure that a lot of people who take jobs with the government go in with zeal and enthusiasm. And once they realize they’ll get paid the same no matter how good they are at their job, most probably give up and put in the minimum effort. I blame the system far more than the individuals.

      2. But many of them have college degrees, so the comparison isn’t exactly accurate. Take a common college graduate in the private sector who’s employed by Starbucks at $10.50 per hour because Starbucks don’t give a shit about how hard she worked for her 17th-Century Albanian Lit college degree versus a DoD data entry clerk making $82k who has that same degree and they make a college degree a prerequisite for the job. If that data entry clerk went to school in her spare time and made it a Masters, it’d be an automatic $12k bump, too.

        1. If that data entry clerk went to school in her spare time and made it a Masters, it’d be an automatic $12k bump, too.

          Actually no. It only makes them eligible for a promotion.

    3. These numbers don’t assume a goddamn thing. They tell you exactly what they are measuring:

      The federal government employs 2.1 million civilian workers in hundreds of agencies at offices across the nation.1 The federal workforce imposes a substantial burden on America’s taxpayers. In 2015 wages and benefits for executive branch civilian workers will cost more than $260 billion.2

      Do you see military in there?

      And if gov’t health care options are junk, then why are they better than Medicare?

      1. Because Medicare is even more junk?

    4. I know a lot of federal workers in DC who pull in six figures who wouldn’t merit more than 50k anywhere else. The funny thing is when they talk about their jobs they are all the insane bureaucratic nonsense that you associate with government jobs. Dystopian offices, mindless never ending paperwork, arbitrary rules etc. They’re all basically compensated like junior executives to do clerical work for exactly eight hours a day.

  7. To add insult to injury, government workers are among the rudest and laziest people in the workforce. They collect their high pay and lavish benefits, get to retire with generous pensions after 30 years, and still can’t bring themselves to be civil or competent towards the people who pay for their worthless asses. But monopolies don’t care about customer service because they know their customers have no choice but to use them.

    1. +1 Kim Davis

  8. I bet the disparity is much greater when they break it out by the hour. Are these fed employees working 32-36 hour weeks?

    1. Rush hour in DC starts at 3:30 pm.

      1. And ends at 3:29pm…

    1. Wow, less Valenti than expected. And not because her stuff doesn’t get up there.

    2. Those are hilarious. “Help! Is my quinoa killing the planet?”

  9. You think Top Men come cheap? You want the best, you have to pay for it, right?

    1. ^ This.
      Only thing Rumsfeld was good at was implementing performance evaluations to pay. As soon as he was gone it was changed back

  10. There are so many contributing factors to the problem, it will be next to impossible to roll it back.

    For example, consider the excess paperwork that exists in the government system. Every time I bid even the smallest item, I have to certify compliance with a bazillion regs. There are people and systems that do nothing but track that crap. It’s useless overhead that contributes nothing to the acquisition process but employs lots of people.

    The pay is only half of the problem. The massive over employment is the other half. I would start by eliminating the need for the positions before attacking the pay scale.

    1. I’m not a big fan of the Jack Welch model, but it is a reasonable tool that can be used when the weeds are so high you don’t know where to begin chopping.

      1. Change the trim threshold to 50% from 10%.

    2. Tell them about what happened during sequestration….

      Want to quintuple the number of hours required to run an agency overnight? Cut their budget. We need one person to inspect and 4 to watch out for angry rabbits.

  11. I believe the term is Legal Plunder.

  12. You have to wonder what constitutes the public sector in this graph. It covers a much broader set of jobs and skills than federal employees. If you have burger flippers dragging one down while scientist, physician raise the other then that skews the numbers in favor of this narrative.

    I’m all for unleashing the two minutes hate on lazy over paid government employees but taking this at face value and reacting is what politicians train us to do….

    1. The article says they compared by job category and the federal employees came out ahead save for three categories.

      1. Scott actually misquoted the source article. That article says that they compared by “industry,” not by job category, and that only three came out ahead. I’m not even sure how you classify federal jobs by industry. Whatever that means is surely meaningless.

    2. RTFA:

      Other studies based on comparisons between similar federal and private workers find either no wage gap or a federal wage advantage. A 2012 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study found that, for comparable workers, federal wages were similar to private wages overall, with just a small two percent advantage for federal workers.13 However, the CBO also found large differences based on education levels. Among less-educated workers, the federal government pays better, but among highly educated workers, the private sector pays better.

      Statistical studies by thinktanks have found a wage advantage for federal workers. A 2010 study by the Heritage Foundation found that federal pay was 22 percent higher, on average, than private-sector pay for comparable workers.14 A 2011 American Enterprise Institute (AEI) study found that federal pay was 14 percent higher, on average, than private-sector pay for comparable workers.15 As with the CBO study, these two studies found wage differences that varied by the level of the worker?less educated workers tend to do better in the federal government, while highly educated workers might do better in the private sector.

    3. There are federal “burger flippers”, too, you know. You’re assuming that the fed doesn’t hire custodians, line cooks, security guards, etc. Yes, a lot of that gets contracted out, but those figures are captured by the private sector data and probably serve to inflate the private sector average given the amount of money that government spends on contracts.


  13. federal employees are back to making more money and getting better raises and benefits than most private employees.

    Hate to break the news to you, this is more a sign of Market Failure than big/bad government.

    In the 80s/90s, government jobs sucked. Only 3% raises per year and pretty crappy benefits.

    Now, those pretty crappy raises/salaries/benefits are premium. This is a bad sign guys.

    1. Itchy Puss|10.8.15 @ 8:47PM|#
      “Hate to break the news to you, this is more a sign of Market Failure than big/bad government.”

      You’re a real laff riot, Itchy!
      And a fucking ignoramus besides.

  14. The number of government employees bothers me more than their wages. Pay them the same but get rid of 90% of them and I would not complain. Much more.

    1. Of course I could have scrolled up and read Lee’s comment.

  15. This is just proof that the federal government should forcibly take over every single industry in the country. Think about it: everyone could be rich! Income inequality would disappear overnight!

    /Krugman

  16. When I’ve brought up this Federal Wage trend to certain “people”, Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that they need why this is a bad thing spelled out for them.

    Now, now…I live in the Garden State in the shadow of the colossus, where it’s cool to be a fascist and not know it but…I get peak-derp responses like “Good for them!” or “Why is it a bad thing that Federal Employees get paid more than private sector employees”.

    One almost doesn’t know where to begin. Most people aren’t interested in having their minds changed, so it’s nearly impossible to even plant the seed of doubt in their minds.

    Heinlein said it best: “Reason is poor propaganda when opposed by the yammering, unceasing lies of shrewd and evil and self-serving men.”

    1. Don’t bother trying to change their minds. It’s the observers of the debate who haven’t formed an opinion yet that you’re after. We can only wait for the statists to die off.

  17. One sad truth about all this is that none of these employees pay enough in taxes to cover the cost of their salaries and benefits. So where do you suppose the money comes from?

  18. Joke told to me by a former brother-in-law who worked for the feds:

    An experienced engineer was interviewing at a federal agency. The interviewer says, “Just from reading your resume, I can see you’ve got the experience we’re looking for, so I’m offering you the position. It pays $110K per year, plus benefits, and our work hours are 9 to 4:30, with a 1.5 hour lunch break.”

    “Great!” says the engineer, “I’ll take it, but first I should tell you about a health issue I have. Due to an accident, I have no balls. I hope that won’t affect your decision.”

    “Not at all,” says the interviewer. “Can you start on Monday? The hours are 11 to 4:30.”

    “11am? I thought you said 9am,” says the engineer.

    “Yeah, but there’s no point to YOU starting at 9,” explains the interviewer, “because for the first 2 hours each day we just sit around and scratch our balls.”

  19. Really? I’m disappointed in libertarians posting this. This uses the same debunked thinking and methodology that gets us the bogus gender wage gap.

    When you don’t control for things like education and local, of course you’re going to see a disparity. Instead of using uncontrolled data (which is what the BEA data are), do a legit study where you find sufficiently similar pairs of randomly selected persons where the only relevant difference between them is that one works for the federal government while the other is private sector. Run those regressions and show me the resulting coefficient, and then we can talk.

    1. There’s no private DEA, Social Security, or Zillion other regulatory agencies in which to compare. But with occupations like teachers, these studies have been done and do concur.

      The one place it won’t is probably the military.

  20. You can see the reality of this in Maryland. The cost of living is fairly staggering and federal employees are predominantly the ones who are “making it”. We have a household income of around 80,000 and we’re still treading water and one car going kaput from “what the fuck are we gonna do?!” Bailouts and the recession proof nature of government means housing costs are still retarded around here. So it looks like money from trees on paper, but the overhead for working peasants is pretty attrocious.

    1. Also lobbyists, lawyers, etc…I guess they’re doing alright.

  21. “Federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,153 in 2014, compared to an average in the private sector of $56,350. The federal advantage in overall compensation (wages plus benefits) is even greater. Federal compensation averaged $119,934 in 2014, which was 78 percent higher than the private-sector average of $67,246.”

    This about as credible as the claims that that women earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by men. It does nothing to control for relevant differences, most importantly the actual jobs the people are doing. The federal civil services is dominated by people in high paying professions like lawyers, scientists, engineers, accountants and doctors. It’s not really surprising that they are higher paid than the average private sector worker.

    1. More like Security guards and clerks. There’s a reason you pretty much have to know someone to get in at Social Security. Anywhere else in Maryland you might make $12/hr tops with mediocre benefits doing office clerk bullshit.

      And there’s still the basic reality that fed employees can essentially never lose their jobs. Good luck in any other industry.

      1. Nearly all the unskilled workers, like security guards or call center workers, that you encounter at a federal agency are not actually federal employees. They are contracted labor.

        1. Yes, 270 is choked from 5am to 9pm with scientists and lawyers commuting from southern PA and eastern West Virginia.

          Federal contractors still make more than similar jobs in private fields. The money’s still coming from the same place, and there are more barriers in the way of getting the jobs (like security clearances).

          1. The federal employees buying the $400,000 houses around the Eldersburg liquor store I worked at for 10 years were predominantly DEA, TSA, Secret Service, NSA. I know because they like to wear matching badges and hats. Which just made me card them even if they were 50.

  22. I see a lot of apologists for failure posting here. No, the disparity in pay isn’t comparable to the so-called Gender Gap. Women in the private sector usually work diligently. Federal employees are lazy, often incompetent, and feel none of the sense of urgency or pressure to perform because, short of knifing a colleague or making racial comments, they are guaranteed to never lose their job.

  23. Even though I am happy that federal employees (at least) are back to making more money and getting better raises and benefits than most private employees, it is not that the majority of people work for the government. What about the rest of people? They might have wanted to get better jobs, but even best resume writing reviews will not be able to help them as there are no jobs on the market. So, when will the rest of people get the raise? I am waiting?

  24. The incremental of minimal wage is important and necessary step. A lot of people live under the minimal wage and have no possibility to solve their financial problems, but just contact to best Canadian payday loan company online and get an appropriate monetary assistance. However regular usage of such monetary service will turn your finance to complete disaster. That is why it’s important to create good financial conditions for development of business and increase of level of living. This solution should be made by the government, while people can only manage their own finance more thoughtful.

  25. Absolute BS. Federal employees don’t make this kind of money unless you are writing an article and manipulate it by incorporating the income of politicians and CEOs of contracting corporations that have deals with the government via congress.

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