New Essay on Federal Pay

June 8, 2010

I have posted a new essay on federal worker pay. The essay gathers together ideas and data from my recent blogs on the topic.

As I’ve noted, the average compensation of federal civilian workers in 2008 was $120,000 a year, which strikes most people as rather high. Defenders of the current system argue that the generous pay is deserved because the federal government has a unique high-end workforce.

But consider some ordinary and mundane offices in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which I happened to be looking at the other day:

  • The USDA’s Office of Communications employs 77 people and will pay $9 million in wages and benefits this year. That works out to $117,000 each for these public relations workers, which is close to the overall federal compensation average.
  • Similarly, the 62 employees of the USDA’s Office of Chief Economist will earn an average $177,000 each in wages and benefits this year, which is far higher than the overall federal average.

Apparently, it isn’t just rocket scientists that are earning high levels of federal compensation, it is also workers in many run-of-the-mill bureaucratic jobs.

(Data for fiscal 2010 from the appendix of the 2011 federal budget, pages 68 and 72).

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