The Federal Times has reported on the status of federal pay in the budget year that ended September 30, 2011. These are the first full year statistics since President Obama canceled automatic cost of living pay hikes for FY 2011 and FY 2012. Federal pay increased, despite the lack of a cost of living raise, 1.3 percent in FY 2011. The increase was the result of longevity or merit raises and promotions.

The average federal employee earned $75,296 and collected an additional $28,323 in benefits. The article points out that contrary to popular opinion, these are significantly higher salaries than comparable positions in the private sector. The reason, according to the researchers producing the article, is due to the higher percentage of professional and graduate degree workers in the federal government (which prompts a higher placement on the salary scale), as well as the greater challenges of federal jobs.

A key quote from the article points to the performance management issues in the federal workforce. “Workers are 13 times more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off from the federal government” it stated. Less than 300 federal workers are laid off each year out of an overall workforce of 2.1 million.

Not getting laid off isn’t the only reason for federal workers to stay put. Since 2007, the retirement rate has dropped 11 percent. The rate of those quitting is down 29 percent. Even departures due to a disability have dropped by a third.

The 2.1 million federal workers are also moving into the higher salary levels. 462,000 federal workers earned salaries over $100,000 yearly in 2011, up from just a quarter million in 2006.

The article lists some sample starting salaries for federal new hires. A 20 year old auto mechanic can start at $46,427. A mechanical engineer, at age 25, may earn $63,675. The average cook in the Federal Bureau of Prisons earns $66,225. The average physician in the Veterans Administration system earns $200,604.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association opposes the continuation of the pay freezes. They describe the proposal as an “attack on America’s middle class.”

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Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a freelance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.