One of the more hotly debated issues of late in the economic blogosphere has been comparisons between federal and private sector earnings and compensation. Here’s a quick rundown of recent op-eds and posts:
- Michael Mandel on his blog showed how public sector gains among managers and professionals have been greater than for the private sector.
- The Washington Examiner wrote an editorial detailing how federal workers (when you factor in compensation) earn “twice as much as the average working taxpayer.”
- Gallup’s Job Creation Index for April showed the federal government did substantially more hiring than the private sector — all while state and local governments have been downsizing.
After looking at these and other articles, we wanted to share some numbers our data team put together from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
First, here’s a chart showing federal wages and compensation since 1990 compared to private wages and compensations. The telling part, of course, is the recent movement of federal compensation — which includes wages and salary plus supplements (e.g., employer contributions to pension, insurance, etc.) — in comparison to private compensation/wage trends.
The bottom line: federal annual compensation per worker added up to $101,143 as of 2008, while private sector workers totaled $54,838.
Next, we’ve put BLS data into an interactive chart showing the top 25 occupations employed by the federal government — as well as earnings for those occupations across other industries. For the majority of the occupations, the federal sector pays more than other industries.
Note: Some wages shown as $80 an hour are actually over $80 an hour. Also, these data do not account for cost-of-living differences if federal employees tend to be more concentrated than private sector employees in areas with higher cost of living.