NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 15, 2006

The closest thing to a lifetime job in America is a federal government job, and now it turns out that it's also a very lucrative way to make a living, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • New data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis confirm that the average federal civilian worker earns $106,579 a year in total compensation, or twice the $53,289 in wages and benefits for the typical private worker.
  • This federal pay premium costs taxpayers big bucks because Uncle Sam's annual payroll is now $200 billion a year.
  • No wonder that, with a per capita income of $46,782 a year, Washington, D.C., is the fourth richest among the nation's 360 metropolitan areas.

And this pay disparity keeps widening, according to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute:

  • In 1950 the average federal bureaucrat received $1.19 for every dollar that a private employee earned.
  • By 1990 that ratio had risen to $1.51 and is now $2; in 2005 federal wages rose 5.8 percent compared to 3.3 percent in the private sector.

It's true that many federal employees are in white collar occupations that often command high pay, but studies find that public sector workers enjoy a 20-30 percent pay bonus above comparably skilled private workers.  And this differential does not account for one of the biggest benefits of a government job: civil service rules giving virtual lifetime job security.  Airline mechanics, auto workers and software designers must all worry about business-cycle downturns or changes in technology or outsourcing, but Uncle Sam's 1.8 million civilian employees live in a recession-proof bubble, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Welcome to Club Fed," Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2006.

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