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Comparing Federal Pay with Private Sector Pay

Friday December 30th, 2016   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 7:03am PST   •  

47288952 - bureaucrat gets paid in cash According to the U.S. Government’s Office of Personnel Management, more than 2.7 million people work as civilian employees of the U.S. federal government. For all practical purposes, they are entirely compensated by taxes imposed on the 140 million Americans who are employed in occupations outside of the federal government.

Chris Edwards of Downsizing the Federal Government has been keeping track of the trends for the average compensation of federal bureaucrats and for Americans who work everywhere else since 2000.

In 2015 federal civilian workers had an average wage of $86,365, according the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).5 By comparison, the average wage for the nation’s 112 million private-sector workers was $58,726. Figure 1 shows that average federal wages grew rapidly for a decade, then slowed during the recent partial pay freeze, and then started rising again in 2014 and 2015.


When benefits such as health care and pensions are included, the federal compensation advantage over private workers is even larger, according to the BEA data. In 2015 total federal compensation averaged $123,160 or 76 percent more than the private-sector average of $69,901, as shown in Figure 2.


The BEA data can be broken down by industry. Among 21 major sectors that span the U.S. economy, the federal government has the fourth highest paid workers after only utilities, mining, and management of companies. Federal compensation is higher, on average, than compensation in the information industry, finance and insurance, and professional and scientific industries.

With an average income of $86,365 in 2015, the typical federal bureaucrat would fall in the 86th percentile of all income-earning individual Americans, which is to say that only 14 percent of Americans make more than the average civilian employee of the U.S. government. And that’s without counting the very generous benefits they receive as part of their total compensation.

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December 2016