Federal Compensation Double Their Private-Sector Counterparts

John Edwards was right about one thing when he ran for president several years ago. There are indeed “two Americas.” The two Americas are not specifically rich and poor , but government workers vs. the rest of us.

Now comes word from the USA Today that federal workers earn DOUBLE their private-sector counterparts. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation.”

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have found that New Mexico state and local workers are paid 11.5% more than their private sector counterparts, so we are a long way from the federal disparity, but the fact is that government workers are not living in the same economic reality as the rest of us. This needs to change with some serious downsizing in terms of both numbers of government workers and their pay and pension packages.

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7 Replies to “Federal Compensation Double Their Private-Sector Counterparts”

  1. Here we go again. Let me pose a question: Does the federal government sector mirror the private sector in terms of education and job skillls? NO. Therefore you cannot make fair comparisons. The federal sector has twice as many college graduates as does the private sector (in 2006 46% of federal employees had a bachelors degree); The federal government currently is top heavy age wise too thus many of its employees are in their senior earning years; The federal employment sector has mostly professional/administrative level type jobs (89%) and include many scientists, lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. Blue collar jobs within the Feds only comprise 11% and there are almost no unskilled jobs like there is in the private sector. Also one must consider the locales of most federal employees – Wash DC and other high cost locations.

  2. Mark R

    The study compared job types with similar jobs in the private sector. Engineers v. Engineers etc. The private sector includes scientists, lawyers and professional jobs as well. There a tens of thousands of blue collar workers on the federal payroll. Janitorial, maintenance, clerks; look at the IRS alone… Mark your argument is not valid. As for living in higher cost locations; so do private workers. Again not a valid point.

  3. I have always believed that our public servants deserved to have a relatively easy life with the weight of responsibility they SHOULD carry on their shoulders. I have never begrudged them an above average salary when I’ve cast my votes. I still believe this; but as almost every American is now being forced to downsize, it’s time for those who choose to run for office or work in government to do so as well. Thank you, Paul for reminding us that they work for US!

  4. Response to MIKE R

    YOU SAY: The study compared similar jobs in the private sector with the federal government. Engineers v. Engineers etc. Where does it say that? I read the USA Today article and no where does it make such a statement. The article talks in general terms putting an overall average of the private sector against the federal government sector. My comments are based on the article and my experience as a former government employee who worked for three different government agencies. When I worked for the army, we had trouble getting engineers because of the low starting pay. I now live in an area surrounded by engineers and scientists from Sandia and know they are paid more than their government counterparts. Also, I know the federal government has thousands of blue collar workers, I never said they didn’t, the military employs many of these at maintenance depots across the country, but overall, they only comprise 11% of the government workforce. As for the IRS, I used to work for them. Most are moderately paid white collar service employees. By the way, most anyone can go to work for the government, it’s not a closed system so if the grass is truly greener – change jobs. As a footnote, when I worked for the army I had to move extensively. In eight years I lived in four states and moved five times for the government. I never owned a home during this time either because of the frequent moves. I will agree there are some who are overpaid but that can be said of any organization. I will reiterate – the two sectors are not apples, one is an apple and the other is an orange.

  5. Same work should have same pay levels. Some regions are higher COLA and this should be watched like a hawk. I don’t think the Government workers are near as productive as private sector regardless of area of expertise, part of why it cost too much to run the government. Too many contractors servicing the military, so that the military has lost a lot of Institutional Memory of what needs to take place in their supply lines and security!!

  6. Too many contractors servicing the military? That came about to “save” money. They can be hired and fired at will. The problem though, the DOD is flush with cash and has been hiring contractors like there is no tomorrow. Lots of waste.

    Same work, same pay. Won’t work, it cost too much to live in Wash DC, NYC and other high cost areas. A no-frills one bedroom apartment will cost you about $1500 a month.

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