USA Today reported earlier this week that for some federal employees, death by natural causes is statistically a bigger threat to end their careers than being fired.  According to the paper’s analysis on federal employment retention:

Federal Employees More Likely to Die Than Get Fired

HUD Headquarters

“Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.”

So could that actually be costing taxpayers?

Last year, USA Today reported that the average  federal salary was an eye-popping $81,258 (not including benefits). And now, during a time of 9.2% unemployment,  USA today is also reporting that the 500,000 federal employees making over $100,000 a year enjoyed a 99.8% retention rate for their jobs in 2010.

Federal Employees More Likely to Die Than Get Fired

EPA Headquarters

If you want a snapshot comparison with the private sector,  John Palguta, former research chief at the federal Merit Systems Protection Board which handles federal firing disputes, offers the following:

The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance.

Federal agency spokesmen claim the low numbers of dismissed federal employees are the result of excellent personnel as well as intelligent hiring practices.

They may have a point, at least in comparison to some unionized state employees. In many major American cities, the ratio of public school teachers fired for performance reasons is about 1 in a 1000.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is tackling this problem of entrenched public employees at the state level, as seen in this video:

But the question remains as the debt ceiling talks rage on- is anyone going to step into Christie’s shoes at the federal level?