Federal Employees Paid 23.1 Percent Less than Private Sector Workers

Press Release October 22, 2020

Washington D.C. – Federal employees on average earned 23.1 percent less than their private sector counterparts this year, according to new calculations released by the Federal Salary Council.

NTEU National President Tony Reardon, a member of the council, said the gap is a significant obstacle in the competition for skilled workers.

“The pay gap is a national problem because it affects federal agencies and employees in every city, town and suburb where job candidates too often opt for the bigger private sector paycheck,” Reardon said. “Every year the council hears heartbreaking testimony from all over about unfilled federal vacancies, understaffed agencies, excessive overtime and poor retention rates.”

The Federal Salary Council determines the pay gap using U.S. Department of Labor data that compares the salaries of public and private sector jobs with similar duties. The Office of Personnel Management provided the salary information to the council in its annual meeting Wednesday.

“The Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA) was passed in 1990 specifically to narrow that gap, but it’s never been fully implemented. Instead, too many years of zero or below-market raises for federal workers have been unable to keep up with private companies, and the gap persists,” Reardon said.

The 23.1 percent pay gap accounts for the locality pay adjustments in certain areas of the country with a higher cost of living and higher overall wages.

Federal employees in 2020 received an average pay increase of 3.1 percent, which may have helped narrow the gap from 26.71 percent in 2019.

“No one goes into public service because they expect to be wealthy, but it is not too much to ask that the government pay its workers a fair wage that helps them keep up with the cost of living and encourages them to stay in a job that serves their fellow Americans,” Reardon said.

NTEU represents about 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.