That contrasts with government calculations using Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicating federal employees average 26 percent less in pay than their private counterparts.
“Workers whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree earned roughly the same hourly wages, on average, in both the federal government and the private sector,” according to the CBO. “However, federal civilian workers with no more than a high school education earned about 21 percent more, on average, than similar workers in the private sector, whereas federal workers with a professional degree or doctorate earned about 23 percent less, on average, than their private sector counterparts.”
Regarding benefits: “On average for workers at all levels of education, the cost of hourly benefits was 48 percent higher for federal civilian employees than for private-sector employees with certain similar observable characteristics, CBO estimates.”
The report says 51 percent of the federal workforce has at least a bachelor’s degree vs. 31 percent of the private-sector workforce. While “overall, the federal government paid 2 percent more in total wages than it would have if average wages had been comparable with those in the private sector,” the report said differences in pay “varied widely depending on the employees’ educational attainment.”
Fortunately for Republicans, the CBO report was released shortly before Wednesday’s scheduled House vote on legislation that would freeze the base pay of federal employees, lawmakers and congressional staffers for another year.
Although the CBO found a middle ground in the debate over federal pay, the report is already being used as a hammer against government wages. A statement from the office of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said “government bureaucrats in Washington continue to enjoy significant advantages over those whose tax dollars finance their compensation.”
American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage had a different view: “This human capital approach compares pay according to demographic traits such as age, gender and race. None of these is relevant for setting pay. No employer would justify paying a woman hundreds of dollars less per week than a man doing the same job, just because labor statistics show that men get paid more than women on average. The very idea is ludicrous, yet those comparisons are at the heart of this CBO report.”
Whatever the point of view of those reading the report, it is significant because the CBO is a respected, nonpartisan agency whose findings generally carry great weight.
The pay freeze bill, as my colleagues Ed O’Keefe and Eric Yoder blogged on Monday, introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), goes against the wishes of the White House, which hopes to increase federal civilian worker salaries by 0.5 percent next year, but is consistent with congressional Republican efforts to curtail government spending in part by reducing the payroll.