The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

During Recession, Federal Salaries Grow as Private Sector Shrinks

with one comment

Typically, when you think about federal government work and “public service,” the generally accepted rule is you will be paid less than in the private sector.

After all, that’s what I was told when I took classes for my Masters in Public Administration. Public servants aren’t in it “for the money,” we were instructed. They’re in it for the public service.

Funny how things change.

A recent analysis by USA Today show’s a shocking new trend. The average federal worker earns $71,206 – compared to the private sector average of $40,331.

One of the more astonishing results is how the salaries have been affected by the recession. Mainly, through a dramatic increase.

Prior to the recession, there was one Transportation Department employee earning more than $170,000 per year. Only 18 months later, there are now 1,690 employees earning over $170,000.

So to be clear – private sector entities are being forced to lay off workers and trim their budgets. But the government is expanding and adding jobs at an exponential rate.

As the Policy Council has previously reported, this trend is evident here in South Carolina. At the South Carolina Research Authority, for instance, 37 employees earn more than $100,000 per year.

As the private sector copes with the recession by trimming budgets, shouldn’t the government follow suit?


Written by Geoff Pallay

December 14, 2009 at 2:56 pm

One Response

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  1. If all private sector reporters do as poor a job researching a story as this reporter did then no wonder they get paid less. This article and nearly every other recent story or TV “news” report fail to consider many critical factors in trying to compare Fed and private sector salaries. It’s not enough to take an occupation, run a simple average salary, look at benefits and then say one is compensated more than the other. To make a true meaningful and EDUCATED comparison, you need to adjust for years of experience, geographic location (I’d argue that a larger percentage of Feds live in cities with much higher cost of living than the avg private person), number of degrees, and other important factors. If you do not perform such “normalizations”, then you as a reporter are not truly educating the reader, basically all you are doing is feeding the hype to sell a story. And who cares about the facts and what’s real so long as you sell a story, right?

    And why does everyone think ALL military should be exempt when they say cut Fed pay? I am all for paying anyone lots of $$ who is in combat, who daily put their life on the line. But seriously, a huge majority of the military stay state side during their whole career doing a job no more dangerous than the equivalent in the private sector. So why take them off the criticism list?


    March 9, 2010 at 11:40 am

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