Fifty-six percent of federal employees who took part in a government-wide survey released yesterday described their pay as "good" or "very good." An additional 29 percent characterized their pay as "fair," and the remainder, 15 percent, called their pay "poor" or "very poor."

When asked "how satisfied are you with your pay?" 64 percent answered "very satisfied" or "satisfied." About 21 percent described themselves as "very dissatisfied" or "dissatisfied" with their pay, and 15 percent said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

The generally positive views on federal salaries were part of an ambitious survey by the Office of Personnel Management to capture the perceptions of executive branch employees on an array of issues. The survey turned up some troubling issues: 35 percent said they are considering leaving their jobs, and only 43 percent said they hold their leaders in high regard.

But on pocketbook issues, federal employees in the survey expressed relatively high levels of satisfaction. For example, 83 percent said they are satisfied with the amount of paid time off they receive and 66 percent are satisfied with their retirement benefits.

Satisfaction levels dropped when employees were asked about their health insurance benefits, however. Only 50 percent provided positive responses, while 29 percent indicated dissatisfaction and 21 percent were undecided.

Kay Coles James, the OPM director, announced the survey results at a National Press Club briefing. The survey, the largest ever of federal employees, used the Internet to reach more than 100,000 civil service employees. The survey was conducted from May to August 2002.

The survey was released shortly after OPM posted the final 2003 salary tables for General Schedule employees (www.opm.gov). In an executive order last week, in keeping with a decision by Congress, President Bush revised this year's pay tables to provide a locality adjustment of about 1 percent, retroactive to the first pay period.

As a result, Washington-Baltimore area employees will receive a 4.27 percent increase in pay. Under the new GS pay table, federal salaries will range from $17,152 to $124,783 in this area. The pay for GS-13s, a typical Washington pay grade, will range from $69,054 to $89,774.

In its survey report, OPM said the level of satisfaction with pay "has increased dramatically during the past decade." In a 1991-92 survey, only 32 percent of employees said they were satisfied with their pay, compared with 64 percent last year.

To some degree, the OPM report suggested, the change in perception may be because of more generous raises over the past decade and the introduction of locality pay in 1994.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, increases in federal pay lagged behind the private sector. But from 1992 to 2002, OPM said, GS salaries increased an average of 38.8 percent, only slightly below the private sector increase of 39.5 percent.

Among employee groups, pay satisfaction was lowest among senior executives, at 58 percent. About 28 percent said they are dissatisfied and the remainder are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, OPM found. Under a statutory cap, federal executive pay is limited to $142,500 this year.

Postmasters in Town

About 1,200 postmasters are here for the National Association of Postmasters annual leadership conference. Today, the postmasters will hear from Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine), House Government Reform Committee Chairman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and other lawmakers.

Retirement

Kathy McGinniss, a supervisory paralegal specialist in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, will retire Monday after nearly 38 years of federal service.

Federal Diary Live

What do you think of President Bush's leadership and management style? Please join Donald F. Kettl, author of a new book, "Team Bush," for a Federal Diary Live discussion at noon today at www.washingtonpost.com.

Stephen Barr's e-mail address is

barrs@washpost.com.