That’s what a new survey by the federal government claims, but it isn’t so, say Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine. If federal employees were really underpaid that much, they point out, then many would quit their jobs to go work in the private sector. That’s not happening: “Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey show that, from 2001 to 2010, federal employees quit their jobs at less than half the rate of workers in large private-sector companies.”
Biggs and Richwine also point out that the calculation from the “President’s Pay Agent,” exludes fringe benefits: “A Congressional Budget Office study published in January found that the federal retirement package was 2.7 times more generous than what is paid by large private-sector firms. Federal workers also receive more paid vacation and sick days.”
Other reasons the federal calculation contradicts three decades of academic research:
[I]t compares pay for federal jobs to nonfederal positions at a similar “grade,” or level. Yet both the CBO and the GAO have documented “overgrading” in the federal workforce, meaning that federal jobs could be assigned higher grades on the General Salary Schedule than the pay agent assumes for their nonfederal equivalents. This can create the appearance of pay differences where none exist.
The pay agent also doesn’t consider the relative qualifications of federal employees. In a 2002 study, economist Melissa Famulari concluded: “Federal workers have significantly fewer years of education and experience than private sector workers in the same level of responsibility in an occupation.” [Washington Post, November 18]