Study: Government Workers Make 78 Percent More Than Private Sector

Employees for the federal government earn far more than their counterparts in the private sector, according to a new study by the Cato Institute.

Federal workers’ pay and benefits were 78 percent higher than private employees, who earned an average of $52,688 less than public sector workers last year.

The study found that federal government workers earned an average of $84,153 in 2014, compared to the private sector’s average of $56,350. Cato based its findings on figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

But when adding in benefits pay for federal workers, the difference becomes more dramatic. Federal employees made $119,934 in total compensation last year, while private sector workers earned $67,246, a difference of over $52,000, or 78 percent.

“Since the 1990s, federal workers have enjoyed faster compensation growth than private-sector workers,” according to the study, written by Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at Cato. “In 2014 federal workers earned 78 percent more, on average, than private-sector workers. Federal workers earned 43 percent more, on average, than state and local government workers.

“The federal government has become an elite island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy,” the Edwards wrote.

And it’s getting bigger every day.

  1. spsffan says:

    Yawn. Nothing new here.

  2. Your Hired! says:

    Wanted: Gubment “worker”.

    Successful candidates will have NO experience.

    Trifecta ideal candidate: Liberal ; Female ; any “popular” Minority.

    Perks: Guaranteed lifetime career with no fear of accountability for over-budget, late-delivery, under performing solutions to fictitious “problems” that never go away.

    Apply with-in.


    • Your Hired! says:

      Political ambitions?

      Gubment offers the opportunity to (minimally) quadruple net worth through unlimited access to a virtual 24/7 hog-trough money buffet.

      Bonus: Insider information, knowledge, and secret skills you take with you ensures a lifetime retirement income for your family and select K-Street friends!

    • MordWa says:

      Wanted: slave to work for slave wages. Be prepared to earn so little that food stamps and govt benefits are required, not optional. Your assistance in making a (1/3 to 1/2 of money required to qualify as “a job”) “job creator” more wealthy is appreciated. No security will be provided, no negotiation will be allowed, but you will still be required to enjoy the publicly required ‘2 minutes of hate’ at those who have *actual* full-paying jobs…
      You ‘muricans… Ugh.

  3. Mike says:

    Ever tried to fill out all the paperwork/online forms to get one of these government jobs?
    I had an easier time getting hired at HP, Verizon, Bell Labs, any number of SF start ups, and several California law enforcement agencies.
    I am still stunned that 98% of the government workers I’ve seen are able to negotiate through all that and land jobs.
    I kinda think it must be like Men in Black. Behind the grungy door behind the counter is a room full of aliens the government is hiding from us…

  4. LibertyLover says:

    And you can’t fire them if the screw up.

    • Freedom Lover says:

      … And THEY (those overpaid govt goons) can go “postal” on YOU!

  5. Hmeyers says:

    You are still working for government. I think they have to pay extra to find people who are willing to tolerate an environment of pure bureaucracy and maybe no meritocracy.

    It’s ok if your only goal in life is breathing, excreting and eating.

  6. Phydeau says:

    I’m sure this is true in Right-Wing world, where Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, Hillary personally presided over Benghazi, Obamacare is failing, and Donald Trump is a serious presidential candidate.

    If you want the folks out in the real world to believe this, you’ll need someone besides a Right-Wing wingtank saying it.

    But you probably don’t care about anything outside Right-Wing world. Carry on.

    • NewFormatSux says:

      Obama promised it in 2008 in campaign mailings to government workers.

    • pedro says:

      How weird is it that only the blind, raging liberul finds this acceptable?

      • NewFormatSux says:

        Just like they instinctively support all government spending, except maybe for military. Any cut is to be opposed.

  7. Aaron says:

    I wouldn’t take a govt job if it paid double what I’m making now. I worked for a county govt for several years. It was a place of zero innovation with zombie employees who have been in the same jobs for decades. Being unemployed would posse be preferable.

    • Hmeyers says:

      I’m not sure “work” is the right word.

      And for some people, that is a good match. Some people would like to get paid for doing very little in an unchallenging environment.

      But isn’t that just a highly paid prison, where you burn your productive years and utterly waste them?

      What’s the difference between that and being in a coma?

      • Mr Diesel - No more bush in the White House, Hillary's or Jeb says:

        The coma doesn’t pay as well.

    • Government Worker says:

      I did take a job at a county for about a quarter more then I was making in the private sector. It was a dream job. 8:30 to 4:30 with an hour lunch. No overtime ever. Really awesome benefits and pension. After about a year it really started to sink in. All of my ideas to improve things would never see the light of day. At least until the old guard retires. Even then their replacements will probably be from the rank and file so they won’t want to change anything because that’s the way it’s always been done. So really every day is still a slog. I just get to go home at a decent hour now.

  8. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    This says gubment workers earn 35% less:

    Its always been said that gubment workers get less in pay for more security, more benefits, and better retirement. But you really have to think shit is ice cream.


    • morris says:

      Gov’t statistics say unemployment is below 6%. I guess you believe that as well?

    • el Gato says:

      From the exact same source that you quote above:

      Somebody is full of ice cream.

    • Hmeyers says:

      Bobbo, you inadvertently did a classic fail.

      This article is NOT about government workers.
      It is about federal government workers.

      Employees of county and city governments, especially in non-metro areas, have pay that can be rather low.

      Federal government workers make a killing.

      • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

        Thanks HM.

        Just going too fast as usual trying to respond to Phydeau.

        I knew a County employee doing basically the same job as mine. I earned 20% more but my job security, health benefits, retirement, vacation policy were all so much worse that I would have immediately traded places with her.

        Ha, ha…..I know a lot of gubment employees who hate their job…..but mostly because they can’t find a better one to pay anthing near what they “get.”

        Pros and Cons to all we do.

        • jpfitz says:

          Howdy bobbo…over here on the east coast, even county, state, and town government workers are paid above average. Not including their benefits and retirement.

          I have a teacher of H.S. in my family and for the hours, and summers and holidays off, what a racket. This person is intelligent and works hard, but the disparity is alarming.

      • pedro says:

        Inadvertently. Good one!

  9. Devilsmytr says:

    Is this comparing all jobs overall? If so, these numbers mean nothing. There aren’t many jobs at the federal level that pay like retail/fast food service industries for a reason.

  10. Red Oktober says:

    a) Something preposterous has happened to the world around me, or
    b) Something preposterous has happened to Alex Hergensheimer’s mind; he should be locked up and sedated.

    I could not think of a third hypothesis; those two seemed to cover all bases. The second hypothesis I need not waste time on. If, I were raising snakes in my hat, eventually other people would notice and come around with a straitjacket and put me in a nice padded room.
    So let’s assume that I am sane (or nearly so; being a little bit crazy is helpful). If I am okay, then the world is out of joint. Let’s take stock.

    Man called Bitcoin’s father denies ties, leads LA car chase
    “Newsweek included a photograph and a described a short interview, in which Nakamoto said he was no longer associated with Bitcoin and that it had been turned over to other people. The magazine concluded that the man was the same Nakamoto who founded Bitcoin … He was mobbed by reporters and told them he was looking for someone who understood Japanese to buy him a free lunch… ”
    Lauren Weinstein
    Thu, 6 Mar 2014 16:27:34 -0800

    “The very basis of the Judeo-Christian code is injustice, the scapegoat system. The scapegoat sacrifice runs all through the Old Testament, then it reaches its height in the New Testament with the notion of the Martyred Redeemer. How can justice possibly be served by loading your sins on another? Whether it be a lamb having its throat cut ritually, or a Messiah nailed to a cross and “dying for your sins”. Somebody should tell all of Yahweh’s followers, Jews and Christians, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
    Lucifer to Alex

    Public spending up 69% from 2003 and they can’t develop a budget that makes cents. Don’t blame the goats!

  11. Anon-e-mouse says:

    And you partisan leftie/rightie pinheads wonder where all the MONEY went. THAT’S a good one. I bet you ALL think it has something to do with terrorism or evil bankers or the boogie man or something — you’re RIGHT!

    Pssst! There’s a saying you may have heard: FOLLOW THE MONEY! So could your real enemy (terrorist, evil banker, boogie man) be the one with most of OUR MONEY?! Go ahead and take a trip to your local nearest gubmnet center. You know, the place where your mayor or governor goes to work (assuming that’s what they actually do). Maybe you’d like to try and look at your last ballot if you need any more clues. Do you see any dots connecting YET?! Think it’s time to STOP voting along party lines YET?!!!

  12. Have Spork Will Travel says:

    Thank you Cato Institute for once again trying to validate conservative platitudes by cherry-picking data.

    How is it that these jokers have any cred with anyone at all? They are like these psychics who are always wrong but who always make news with new bizarre predictions.

    If you’ve been in the job market at all anytime within the last 50 years you know you can make waaay more money in the private sector. Ask yourself this: How does that correlate with anything in this article?

    The chief legitimate criticism of government is that the best people are constantly being lured away by higher salaries in the private sector.

    • Phydeau says:

      Aw man, there you go injecting reality into the world of the right-wingers. They don’t deal with that kind of stuff too well…

      • jpfitz says:

        Here is more…

        “President Barack Obama’s recent announcement to freeze the pay of federal civilian workers did little to ice the debate over whether federal workers are overpaid or underpaid. Republican leaders and conservative think tanks claim federal workers are overpaid. They say the average federal worker is paid twice as much as those in the private sector. The federal Office of Personnel Management and unions that represent federal workers say on average they are paid 24 percent less than those in the private sector.

        Both sides are armed with official government statistics, but neither side is right.”

      • Hmeyers says:

        Most of the statistics in the news are “hocus pocus” bullshit.

        One example: When the Oregon shooter happened, CNN listed gun “injuries in the United States” and it was 35,257 or so.

        Which conveniently has 24,000 suicides in the number, instead of the homicides number of 11,000.

        I don’t know that there are any numbers the news ever uses which are trustable, except possibly GDP, demographics and financial sector numbers.

        • Phydeau says:

          And suicides don’t count as “gun injuries” because…

          • NewFormatSux says:

            That’s the next step of politicization after the school shootings. Kind of like how they blamed Reagan and Bush for deaths from AIDS

          • jpfitz says:

            Pedro, having a gun in a home has been proven overwhelmingly to raise the suicide incident and accidental discharge of the gun resulting in death.

            If a mans depressed real bad, and an angry drunk, hopefully he’s the only one dead after he gets that impulse to end it.

            People kill, not the gun itself. The gun is a tool, deadly, just like drugs and automobiles.

            Hey, wasn’t this about wage disparity???

            How about those 112 pallets of weapons and ammo dumped into the fire pit in Syria? Holy Shit. Sounds like Brzezinski has a part in this play book.

    • NewFormatSux says:

      I guess the wealthiest counties in the US aren’t next to DC either.

      Situation is turning into The Hunger Games, and the liberals are in denial.

      • pedro says:

        Normally, I would call out the redundancy of putting the words liberal and denial in the same sentence (like saying liberals being liberals), but it drives the point home nicely there; I’ll let it pass.

  13. jpfitz says:

    How about our men and women in the Federal military risking life and limb for oil and treasure? Not much pay there, unless you’re a big shot General, or a merc.

    “How Much Do You Get Paid for Each Rank in the Marine Corps?
    by Will Charpentier , Demand Media

    Pay depends on rank, time in service and, for lower ranks, time in grade.

    How Much Money Does a Lieutenant Make in the Marine Corps?
    Do Marine Reservists Get Paid the Same as Marine Active Men?
    What Are the Eligibility Rules for the Marine Corps?
    What Is the Pay Grade for a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps?
    Marine Corps Physical Fitness Standards

    Pay in the United States Marine Corps depends on three things: your rank, the length of your service to the Corps and the time you have been in a pay grade, called time-in-grade, or in the service. The pay structure is the same as that of all the U.S. armed services, with its divisions between commissioned officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel. Officer pay grades begin with an “O,” warrant officer pay grades with a “W” and enlisted pay grades with an “E.”
    Enlisted Ranks E-1 to E-3

    A private, E-1, is a recruit. A recruit earns $1,468 per month. When the recruit graduates from basic training, the recruit is promoted to private first class and receives a raise to $1,645 per month. The next-highest enlisted rank is the lance corporal, who earns between $1,730 per month and $1,950 depending on the time-in-grade.
    Grades E-4 and E-5

    The rank above lance corporal is corporal. A corporal is an E-4. and is an NCO, a non-commissioned officer. A corporal earns between $1,916 per month and $2,231 per month, depending on the time-in-grade. After six years, the corporal’s pay reaches its maximum, $2,326 per month.
    A corporal may be promoted to sergeant. an E-5 and also an NCO. A sergeant’s pay begins at $2,090 per month and increases with time-in-grade, to a maximum pay for a sergeant is $2,966 after 12 years of service.

    Staff NCOs are non-commissioned officers in pay grades E-6, the staff sergeant; E-7, gunnery sergeant — called, very respectfully — “Gunny”; E-8, master sergeant; and E-9, master gunnery sergeant. An E-6’s pay begins at $2,281 per month and rises to $3,533 per month, for more than 20 years’ service. The pay for an E-7, a gunnery sergeant, begins at $2,637 per month and rises to as much as $4,189 per month, for more than 20 years of service. The pay for an E-8 starts at $3,794 per month and rises to $4,568 per month, for a master sergeant with more than 20 years of service in the Corps. A master gunnery sergeant, an E-9, is the highest enlisted rank. The master gunnery sergeant’s pay starts at $4,635 per month and increases to $5,185 per month, for more than 20 years’ service.”

    If you want to get a Fed job check out form SF 86 2010. Apply for the NSA.

    • Hmeyers says:

      I think you can retire after 20 years, though.

      And be 40 years old with all the time in the world for the rest of your life.

    • el Gato says:

      Even adjusting for inflation, Military pay is infinitely better now than it was when I was in it which as an E4 was about 300.00 per month, 3 hots and a cot….. in the late 70’s.

      Nobody joins the military to get rich. And for the vast majority, its just a job and you’re not risking life and limb.

    • Who wants to know says:

      You don’t need an SF-86 to apply for a federal job – just a resume. If you need a security clearance though, that’s some paperwork.

  14. NewFormatSux says:

    Of course government workers donate money to politicians who will negotiate contracts with the government workers.

  15. Torri says:

    I had always wanted to be a federal government employee but never made it. The truth is that it’s very difficult to get there without someone’s backing. You need to have family members or friends in high places.

  16. Winston says:

    Sure, that’s what Cato says but I’m waiting for the Green Hornet to chime in.

  17. Jason says:

    I’ve been a federal employee for over 25 years. I remember when taking the job right out of school that most of my fellow graduates/friends were making much more money, but I was one of those “public service” types (public safety job) and I didn’t pick the job for the pay. Over the years I’ve done alright- still living pay check to pay check, buy used cars, and don’t pay for luxuries like cable. But my friends have stayed around the same pay when adjusted for 25 years, while us Feds got small but cumulative pay raises. From what I’ve seen, Average Joe Middle Class has been systematically screwed, with wages staying flat for over two decades. Yes, us Feds did a bit better, but now public sentiment seems to be looking to drag Fed workers down as well. Do you think the people running the Cato Institute Think Tank are driving a 12 year old Toyota like me? The rich get richer, and the rest get pooched…


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