The Jury Talks Back


The Federal Salary Bubble

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 10:57 pm

There are two Americas. One America is employed by the Federal government. The other America makes half as much, with uncertain security, shoulders the federal budget and guarantees federal benefits that they themselves might never see.

The US Department of Commerce publishes a series of income tables comparing compensation for all public and private employees. If you think that private workers have higher incomes and that government benefits and security are balanced by their lower pay, well, times have changed.

Odds are that the average federal employee (civilian or military) makes twice what you do.

In 2008, the average private sector compensation (wages plus all benefits) was $59,909.  More for some professions, less for others.  State and local government workers got a little bit more:  $67,819 (although they too claim to get less).

But one of the highest income groups in America was “federal government worker”, who made far more than one would ever suspect.

In 2008, the average federal government worker got $111,446 in total compensation.  Military salaries, surprisingly, did not bring the average down — the average military compensation was $113,871.  Only when you get to “government enterprises” (such as the post office) do you drop under $100K.  These low-paid government workers received a mere $85,478 — but that was still 143% of the average private sector compensation.  At the other end, civilian federal workers averaged $119,982 per year, almost exactly double what the poor private sector schmuck got.

Mind you, this is US government data, not something Sean Hannity made up.  Check it for yourself.  Particularly tables 6.2d, 6.3d and 6.5d.  I’ve included summary data from these tables after the break.

This is beyond nuts.  It is unsustainable to have a large government workforce making double what their tax-paying supporters get, with iron-rice-bowl jobs and full pay on retirement at an early age, while the poor slob footing the bill is wondering how on earth he’s ever going to manage on Social Security, should that exist when he’s 65 67 70.

If Greece is the canary, this is the coal mine.

US Wages, Salaries and Benefits, by Industry 2008
from US Department of Commerce
Bureau of Economic Analysis Total Number of Average Relative to
Compensation Employees Compensation Private
Data from tables 6.2D, 6.3D, 6.5D for sector (1000’s) (all wages & Sector
and computed from same ($million) benefits) Average
Total $ Total # Average Relative
2008 2008 2008 2008
Full-time equivalent employees $8,037,425 127,784 $62,899 105%
Domestic industries $8,044,750 128,533 $62,589 104%
Private industries $6,474,880 108,078 $59,909 100%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting $41,663 1,115 $37,366 62%
Mining $71,903 703 $102,280 171%
Oil and gas extraction $26,875 159 $169,025 282%
Utilities $64,509 554 $116,442 194%
Construction $438,038 7,188 $60,940 102%
Manufacturing $939,089 13,154 $71,392 119%
Durable goods $618,649 8,337 $74,205 124%
Nondurable goods $320,440 4,817 $66,523 111%
Wholesale trade $437,510 5,794 $75,511 126%
Durable goods $263,600 3,389 $77,781 130%
Nondurable goods $173,911 2,405 $72,312 121%
Retail trade $503,915 13,502 $37,322 62%
Transportation and warehousing $257,403 4,323 $59,543 99%
Information $260,161 2,813 $92,485 154%
Finance and insurance $607,756 5,830 $104,246 174%
Real estate and rental and leasing $110,312 2,002 $55,101 92%
Professional, scientific, and technical services $688,588 7,535 $91,385 153%
Management of companies and enterprises $220,639 1,816 $121,497 203%
Administrative and waste management services $310,728 7,461 $41,647 70%
Educational services $129,402 2,789 $46,397 77%
Health care and social assistance $818,628 14,426 $56,747 95%
Arts, entertainment, and recreation $81,893 1,673 $48,950 82%
Accommodation and food services $253,199 9,373 $27,014 45%
Other services, except government $239,543 6,028 $39,738 66%
Government $1,569,870 20,455 $76,747 128%
Federal $466,847 4,189 $111,446 186%
General government $401,969 3,430 $117,192 196%
Civilian $223,647 1,864 $119,982 200%
Military $178,322 1,566 $113,871 190%
Government enterprises $64,878 759 $85,478 143%
State and local $1,103,023 16,266 $67,812 113%


  1. Get rid of government unions. Repudiate the Chicago Way.

    The bureaucracy, in general, has become the fourth branch of government, often frustrating the efforts of the elected branches. This must stop.

    Comment by Milwaukie Guy — 5/13/2010 @ 2:13 am

  2. Yup Since the implementiaion of proposition 13 central government burecracy has drasticly increased in California.
    Since local governments are unable to fund them self through adeguite proporty tax revenues the state government do the funding that the local governments should have done instead leading to an ever growing bureacracy.
    this is costly for the state of Californias central government leading to huge and growing state budget defecit California is rooting from deep within.

    Comment by Caleb — 5/26/2010 @ 1:27 pm

  3. Well, Caleb, except that it is the FEDERAL salaries that are out of whack.

    And I can pretty much blame Serrano and the US DoE for much of the state bureaucracy growth. Prop 13 isn’t even remotely the villain.

    Comment by Kevin Murphy — 5/26/2010 @ 1:46 pm

  4. In California centralization of funding for local governments through the state goverenrnment are the results of propostion 13.
    Wich in turn increaes centralization for funding from federal sources for California to.
    Increasing central bureacracy while reducing ability for local self funding to reduce state and fedral bureacracy.
    Att the same time fedral goverenment increases it influnce over California as an ever growing source of funding over Californias state government increasing fedral bureacry in California.
    Since the state goverenment is starved out of proporty tax revenues usaly collected localy and then distrubuted to state goverenment.
    But becouse of propstion 13 local government are unable to to collect enough with proporty tax revenues to distrbute to state governement. This in turn leads to growing federal funding for the state goverenment of California and an ever growing fedral bureacracy over California.

    Comment by Caleb — 5/27/2010 @ 12:43 am

  5. Caleb, the centralization of budgets was mostly the result of the Serrano v Priest, which outlawed local funding for schools. Since schools are the bulk of the state budget (ignoring interest and pensions), this makes any effect of Prop 13 immaterial — 1% would easily cover everything else if the state didn’t raid local funds all the time.

    Comment by Kevin Murphy — 5/29/2010 @ 7:43 pm

  6. If Prop 13 was the issue than local spending in California would be less as the State covered more. I don’t see this. Local spending is ruinously high as Union thugs and the political commissars bankrupt local and state governments. Look at San Francisco’s spending and the idea that Prop 13 is starving local governments appears risible.

    Comment by Machinist — 6/7/2010 @ 1:30 pm

  7. […] I’ve compiled the relevant data here. […]

    Pingback by Instapundit » Blog Archive » HAPPY LABOR DAY: “This weekend we celebrate Labor Day in a country divided between two kinds of wor… — 9/6/2010 @ 4:56 pm

  8. […] The Jury Talks Back » The Federal Salary BubbleThe Federal Salary Bubble. Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Murphy … I've included summary data from these tables after the break. … […]

    Pingback by Federal salary tables | SelcIv — 1/18/2011 @ 6:24 pm

  9. This is one awesome article. Fantastic.

    Comment by Ralph Marez — 2/3/2012 @ 11:01 am

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