OPM stands by its 22% pay gap assessment


The Office of Personnel Management today refuted the findings of a recent USA Today story that found federal employees earn far more than employees in the private sector — and doubled down on the government’s current pay gap method that finds government employees earn 22 percent less on average than their private-sector counterparts.

The points they laid out in this afternoon’s hastily-arranged press conference should be familiar to anyone who’s been following the issue in recent months. USA Today’s findings don’t compare like jobs, OPM pointed out, or people with equivalent skills and levels, in the same geographic areas — all factors that can result in higher government salaries.

But even though OPM Director John Berry earlier this summer acknowledged that the government’s pay gap estimates “have a credibility problem” and said he wanted to come up with a new, more transparent way of determining that gap, OPM now appears to be walking away from that pledge. In the conference call today, OPM officials reiterated their belief that the president’s pay agent’s current method is the best possible method of determining the pay gap.

“We do not know of anything better,” said Sheldon Friedman, the chairman of OPM’s Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee.

Despite Berry’s pledge to ask outside groups such as the National Academy of Public Administration to help them determine a better way to compare public and private pay, OPM Communications Director Sedelta Verble said that has not happened. All of which leaves the debate more or less where it began.


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  1. The bulk of Federal employees work in low to medium paying jobs that for years have not keep up with adjustments for inflation; granted there has been good job security which Federal employees used as a reason to accept the lower than private sector pay increases.

    Jobs in housekeeping; food service; clerical; and Central Supply (sterilizing medical instruments and devises) are not the best paying jobs around but they are jobs that Federal employees work very hard at.

    With the current recession it does appear that the job security of Federal employees makes it seem that they are doing extremely well; but they too are finding it hard to make ends meet. The 2% increase they received last year may seem like a lot but it really isn’t and the 1.4% increase projected this year is better than nothing but it is not alot.

    The thousands of Federal employees that work hard deserve to earn a living and they take pride in serving the public.

  2. It’s hard to believe that any responsible senior Federal official such as the OPM Director would cite the discredited BLS comparative pay data regarding a less than credible 22% pay gap on average between and Federal and non-Federal compensation, to the Feds’ detriment. Beginning with the first year, 1994, when the locality pay system established by the 1990 FEPCA legislation was first implemented and every year since then, EACH adminstration – whether Democratic or Republican – has routinely rejected the unrealistic recommendations of the Federal Salary Council based on the dubious annual BLS data. We only open ourselves to further public ridicule and anger by such asinine statements. Let’s stop stonewalling and admit the obvious, i.e., that the locality pay comparability process has slowly over the years indeed improved Federal pay scales to the point that in many if not most occupational and CONUS geographic areas we do have a significant advantage over those outside of the “charmed” Federal circle. The long and severe recession has only served to further highlight and exacerbate this situation. Let’s look at the situation from the stand point of the battered outsider majority and try to understand how unfairly favored we appear to be to them, especially as we have been largely exempt from and immune to most of the negative impacts upon the American workforce as a whole over the last two years in particular. Denial of the obvious is counterproductive.
    However, if Mr. Berry is now saying that the annual BLS comparative pay data is indeed valid, the proof will come later this year when the latest in the series of Federal Salary Council recommendations calling for double digit Federal pay increases comes across his desk as a member of the President’s Pay Agent (the others being the Secreatry of labor and the OMB Director), and he winds up supporting these same off-the-wall recommendations. That scenario is monumentally improbable, as the best he could hope for would be being demoted back to being in charge of the National Zoo.

  3. Pingback: Fedline » John Berry: Federal-private salary comparisons are ‘apples to oranges’

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