Federal government workers have notoriously earned more than — in many cases more than double — their private sector counterparts for a while. But a new analysis from USA Today sheds light on the shocking size and scope of pay increases for federal workers, most notably in recent years. According to USA Today, the number of federal workers earning salaries of $150,000 or more has increased tenfold over the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office in January 2009.
While the rest of the U.S. economy remains stagnant, the fast-growing pay of federal employees has raised eyebrows among conservative Republicans. Though the GOP made significant gains during last week’s midterm elections, Republicans are wary of Democrats’ plans to approve a 1.4 percent across-the-board pay raise to 2.1 million federal workers during the upcoming lame-duck session. USA Today reports:
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who will head the panel overseeing federal pay, says he wants a pay freeze and prefers a 10% pay cut. “It’s stunning when you see what’s happened to federal compensation,” he says. “Every metric shows we’re heading in the wrong direction.”
National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley counters that the proposed raise “is a modest amount and should be implemented” to help make salaries more comparable with those in the private sector.
Federal salaries have grown robustly in recent years, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Office of Personnel Management data. Key findings:
• Government-wide raises. Top-paid staff have increased in every department and agency. The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office and 994 in June.
• Long-time workers thrive. The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years. Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% compared with a 9% inflation rate.
• Physicians rewarded. Medical doctors at veterans hospitals, prisons and elsewhere earn an average of $179,500, up from $111,000 in 2005.
Federal workers earning $150,000 or more now make up 3.9% of the country’s workforce, up from just 0.4% in 2005. In addition, federal workers enjoy more robust benefits packages than their private sector counterparts.
Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Members of Congress earn $174,000, up from $141,300 in 2000, an increase below the rate of inflation.