Sunday, March 7, 2010

USA Today - Federal Pay vs. The Private Sector

From USA Today:

Average federal salaries exceed average private-sector pay in 83% of comparable occupations. A sampling of average annnual salaries in 2008, the most recent data:

Job comparison

Average federal salaries exceed average private-sector pay in 83% of comparable occupations. A sampling of average annnual salaries in 2008, the most recent data:

Job Federal Private Difference
Airline pilot, copilot, flight engineer $93,690 $120,012 -$26,322
Broadcast technician $90,310 $49,265 $41,045
Budget analyst $73,140 $65,532 $7,608
Chemist $98,060 $72,120 $25,940
Civil engineer $85,970 $76,184 $9,786
Clergy $70,460 $39,247 $31,213
Computer, information systems manager $122,020 $115,705 $6,315
Computer support specialist $45,830 $54,875 -$9,045
Cook $38,400 $23,279 $15,121
Crane, tower operator $54,900 $44,044 $10,856
Dental assistant $36,170 $32,069 $4,101
Economist $101,020 $91,065 $9,955
Editors $42,210 $54,803 -$12,593
Electrical engineer $86,400 $84,653 $1,747
Financial analysts $87,400 $81,232 $6,168
Graphic designer $70,820 $46,565 $24,255
Highway maintenance worker $42,720 $31,376 $11,344
Janitor $30,110 $24,188 $5,922
Landscape architects $80,830 $58,380 $22,450
Laundry, dry-cleaning worker $33,100 $19,945 $13,155
Lawyer $123,660 $126,763 -$3,103
Librarian $76,110 $63,284 $12,826
Locomotive engineer $48,440 $63,125 -$14,685
Machinist $51,530 $44,315 $7,215
Mechanical engineer $88,690 $77,554 $11,136
Office clerk $34,260 $29,863 $4,397
Optometrist $61,530 $106,665 -$45,135
Paralegals $60,340 $48,890 $11,450
Pest control worker $48,670 $33,675 $14,995
Physicians, surgeons $176,050 $177,102 -$1,052
Physician assistant $77,770 $87,783 -$10,013
Procurement clerk $40,640 $34,082 $6,558
Public relations manager $132,410 $88,241 $44,169
Recreation worker $43,630 $21,671 $21,959
Registered nurse $74,460 $63,780 $10,680
Respiratory therapist $46,740 $50,443 -$3,703
Secretary $44,500 $33,829 $10,671
Sheet metal worker $49,700 $43,725 $5,975
Statistician $88,520 $78,065 $10,455
Surveyor $78,710 $67,336 $11,374

A few things should immediately jump out at you. For starters, what the hell does the Federal Government need with Public Relations Managers? Do U.S. citizens have a freakin' choice about what government they answer to?
Number two: Aren't there plenty of Landscape Architects out there with less burdensome retirement packages in the private sector who could do this same work for less money?
Number three: Do government clergy making 80K per year spend most of their time thanking God for their jobs?
Number four: I'm to be congratulated for getting this chart to format properly on my website. I deserve more money, whether you want to pay me or not. I know it won't work. Just thought I'd try.
One other thing....the retirement/benefits packages are up to 4 times better for those who can get their foot in the Federal door.

When time permits, do a bit of Googling on the economic situation in Greece and Portugal. The path we're on is well-marked.


J H P said...

You'd have a triple heart attack if you knew the differences between private and public sector in Portugal (not to mention every major "public work" surpassing 2 ou 3 times initial building budgets, like 10 useless soccer stadiums for the Euro2004).
But the general picture could be guessed - otherwise we wouldn't mention it, eh.

Harper said...

Whited, the USA Today link is bunk.

The article doesn't make clear whether the Federal Pay jobs include the military. It references other statistics about "civilian" jobs, but doesn't specify if the USBLS data that they used includes military pay.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

J H P,
I appreciate you continuing to drop by. My Portuguese readership is lacking.

I've seen enough validation elsewhere to give it validity. Will post more on it, as I believe that it's going to be one of the bigger issues in the 2012 elections (While Fed pay is WAAAAAYYY high, the state-level pay isn't too shabby either. California being the best example among many.)

Flee said...

This is something we can see eye to eye on. Cut the government workforce by 20% and give the remaining a 20% pay cut. Military would be exempt.

Nick Rowe said...

It's a deeply flawed analysis. The most serious is that it uses nominal, not real data, i.e. it doesn't take into account the cost of living of the areas in which the survey participants live.

Of course an economist in DC is going to earn more than an equally qualified economist in Wichita, Kansas. Most government economists are concentrated in the high-cost areas of DC, NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Those higher salaries not only have less purchasing power, they are taxed at a higher marginal rate.

Some of these government positions are unionized, so that accounts for at least part of the difference in pay. Government unions should be banned because the principal (the taxpayers) aren't part of the negotiating process.

The study also did not control for experience and non-pecuniary benefits. The author is living in a two-variable world. Violating ceteris paribus (all else equal) is the fundamental error in economic analysis.

I'm a government economist. I earn MORE than the average on this list, but I can barely afford a mortgage in San Francisco with my wife's salary on top of mine. Taxes are eating me alive.

Friends of mine in academia in other parts of the country have been living in houses for years and their wives don't work.

The clergy category is ridiculous. Those "government" clergy are mostly in the US military and are paid the same salary as other officers in their pay grade. Their compensation structure is not based on how many people are in their congregation and how generous their voluntary contributions are.

Why do they have public relations? Government offices have to deal with the public and the media on a daily basis. The Public Relations manager for my agency works his butt off, providing clear and accurate information to the public. That position is probably one of the most legitimate functions of a government agency - explaining to people what their tax dollars are being used for.

I happen to know that private crane operators make FAR more than what this 'study' suggests. They easily make six-figure salaries and can earn over $200,000 because it's a highly-skilled and very dangerous job.

Remember that this survey is just a sample, so the results are random variables. The study hasn't published the standard error of the sample statistics, so there's no way of knowing whether many of these differences are statistically significant or not.

Dr Ralph said...

Nick -- I was about to reply and then read your response. I don't think I could have written anything better. Well said, sir!

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Thanks for the commentary, and thanks for sticking by your guns. I tell you what.... I'm going to keep posting every survey that comes out about govt. pay on a weekly schedule (It's going to be the hot-button issue for every election cycle until we go broke.)

Nick, when time permits, on a slightly related subject, check out Thomas Sowell's "The Housing Boom And Bust", for some of the many reasons that it costs so much to live in San Fran.

CrisisMaven said...

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Anonymous said...

If all private sector reporters do as poor a job researching a story as this reporter did then no wonder they get paid less. This article and nearly every other recent story or TV "news" report fail to consider many critical factors in trying to compare Fed and private sector salaries. It's not enough to take an occupation, run a simple average salary, look at benefits and then say one is compensated more than the other. To make a true meaningful and EDUCATED comparison, you need to adjust for years of experience, geographic location (I'd argue that a larger percentage of Feds live in cities with much higher cost of living than the avg private person), number of degrees, and other important factors. If you do not perform such "normalizations", then you as a reporter are not truly educating the reader, basically all you are doing is feeding the hype to sell a story. And who cares about the facts and what's real so long as you sell a story, right?

And why does everyone think ALL military should be exempt when they say cut Fed pay? I am all for paying anyone lots of $$ who is in combat, who daily put their life on the line. But seriously, a huge majority of the military stay state side during their whole career doing a job no more dangerous than the equivalent in the private sector. So why take them off your citicism list?

Anonymous said...

Nick Rowe is right, this story and nearly every other story in the news on this issue is seriously flawed from the begining. Bad data=bad conclusions.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Wow. This one brought EVERYBODY out.
I see one of these public vs. private surveys about once a week.
Will post them more often to get responses, and to see if all of them are as deeply flawed.

Am also going to do more research and Googling on why the hell the government needs publicists.

Also, I just noticed Harper's new Icon or Avatar or whatever you call it. Am laughing hard.