DECEMBER 13, 2012
Federal employees earn more than private-sector workers and, with an administration that’s drastically expanded government, they have better job security yet they whine in a new survey that satisfaction has hit its lowest point in nearly ten years.
Boohoo! Across the board, the nation’s 2.3 million federal employees rake in more money and benefits than their counterparts in the private sector. In many instances the jobs are cushy and wrongdoing is seldom punished or handled with a mere slap on the wrist. It’s like a professor becoming untouchable after getting tenure at a public university.
In a nutshell, it’s great work if you can get it. Employees are spread out among more than 100 agencies in jobs that represent more than 700 occupations. Overall, the government pays 16% more than private employers, according to figures released this year by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan agency that provides Congress with crucial economic data on pending legislation.
In some areas federal employees make more than one-third more than their private sector counterparts, CBO figures reveal. For instance, federal civilian employees with no more than a high school education averaged 36% higher total compensation than similar private-sector employees. Federal workers whose education culminated in a bachelor’s degree averaged 15 percent higher total compensation than their private-sector counterparts.
A few years ago a mainstream newspaper analysis of federal data found that government employees earn higher average salaries than private-sector workers in more than eight out of 10 occupations. These include a broad range of professional and blue-collar jobs like accountants, nurses, chemists, cooks, clerks and janitors. The newspaper used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to compare salaries in every federal job that had a private-sector equivalent.
This isn’t enough for federal workers, however. They complain about low morale and a big drop in satisfaction with pay, according to an annual survey conducted by a nonpartisan organization that works to revitalize the federal government. “The 2012 results tell a troubling story about a workforce whose satisfaction and commitment levels have dropped to the lowest point since 2003,” the report says.
The biggest beef is with a 2 ½-year pay freeze as the nation suffers through a never-ending financial crisis and a whopping $16 trillion deficit. Federal workers are also quite unhappy with their rewards and advancement, according to the survey which includes about 2 million on Uncle Sam’s payroll. The major agency with the largest number of disgruntled workers is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the 240,000-employee monster created after the 2001 terrorist attacks to protect the nation.
Employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs expressed the biggest decrease in satisfaction, with a drop of 7.1 points, from 63.8 in 2011 to 56.7 this year. It was followed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) with a 4.5-point decline. The biggest drop for a mid-sized agency was the National Labor Relations Board, whose score fell 7.5 points. The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) had the largest declines among small agencies last year and again in 2012. FMC dropped by 21.9 points and USTR dropped by 15 points.
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