John Berry: Federal-private salary comparisons are 'apples to oranges'


Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry released a statement last night disagreeing with recent stories that find federal employees are paid vastly more than employees in the private sector. Berry’s arguments largely track with points made by other OPM officials Friday afternoon. Here’s Berry’s full statement:

Recent press stories regarding pay for Federal employees compared to private sector workers are unfair and untrue.  Simply put, these stories have compared apples to oranges.  Federal workers are not paid double the private sector.  The Cato Institute and USA Today stories quoting Cato staff (and similar statements from the Heritage Foundation) look only at gross averages, including retail and restaurant service workers and other entry-level positions that reduce private sector average pay in comparison to the Federal average, which does not include many of these categories in its workforce.

The Federal workforce today is highly specialized.  Thirty years ago, over 22% of our workforce was in blue collar jobs.  Now that percentage has dropped by half while the percentage of IT and Health professionals has doubled.  Data clearly show that many of these highly specialized workers – doctors, nurses, cybersecurity professionals – are paid less than their private sector counterparts and are making a significant sacrifice in pay to serve their neighbors.

The wages we pay are fair and the benefits we offer are good.  But working for the Federal government is about more than money.  People grow up dreaming about working for NASA, or the CIA, or becoming a park ranger, or cancer researcher.  We should be applauding these hard-working civil servants – not mischaracterizing them.

It is also worth noting that in this time when so many American families are struggling to make ends meet, the President is committed to making sure the Federal government is spending the taxpayers’ money wisely and carefully, and cutting costs wherever possible.  Like households and businesses across the country, the Federal Government is tightening its belt.   That’s why the President launched the Accountable Government Initiative and has pursued a variety of areas to cut waste and boost efficiency from contracting to improper payments, Federal real property, and unnecessary programs.


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  1. I have a sister-in-law who is a GS-14 top step making $130,000 a year working (overly stated) less than 40 hours per week. She apend most of her time on the laptop checking emails (personal), facebook and snding emails to friends and relaties. Now does this sound like she is not gettng paid as her counterparts do.

  2. Pingback: Fedline » OPM’s Berry, NTEU’s Kelley to square off against Heritage, AEI

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