Federal pay comes under fire

Federal pay comes under fire

Slow economic recovery and continued high levels of unemployment have focused congressional attention on federal pay.  Some members, such as newly elected Sen. Scott Brown (D-MA), have called for a freeze on federal salaries.  Others have questioned the seemingly higher levels of federal pay received by federal workers compared to their civilian counterparts. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has asked federal agencies to report on how many of their employees make more than $100,000 and for a list of all personal services contracts for professional services in the last three years valued at $100,000 or more.  This congressional reaction has come in the wake of a report in USA Today citing Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 2008.  According to the report, BLS data show that federal workers’ salaries averaged $67,691 in 2008, over $7,600 higher than that of private-sector workers.  Broken down by job categories, the BLS data showed higher federal average salaries in a large majority of the 216 occupations studied (including budget analysts, financial analysts, statisticians, and clerks, as well as cooks and janitors).  However, a straight-up comparison of federal and private-sector salaries may not allow one to draw such a simple conclusion.  For example, it is often difficult to make comparisons of specific public and private sector jobs when broad occupational categories are used.  A larger percentage of federal employees tend to be concentrated in large high-cost urban areas.  And, the makeup of the federal workforce is different than that of the private workforce.   In responding to the USA Today article and congressional charges that federal workers are overpaid, OMB Director Peter Orzag told Government Executive that analyses showing much higher average federal salaries are often misleading.  Orzag pointed out that the federal workforce is more educated and experienced than the private workforce and this accounts for almost all the difference in average salary comparisons.  Highlights would like to know what you think about this issue.  If you want to share your thoughts, please comment below.

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