News & Politics

10% of Americans Are Unemployed So Why Are Feds Getting Big Raises?

Despite the recession, more federal employees than ever are making six-figure salaries paid for by cash-strapped taxpayers.

While most people I know are stressing about pay freezes or sweating the possibility of forced "early retirement" -- if they survive the next round of lay-offs -- federal employees seem to be sitting real pretty.

It appears that 19 percent of federal employees are earning $100,000 or more -- a rate that increased five points during the first 18 months of the recession, according to USA Today. And that's before overtime and bonuses are added in, so a good deal more may be bringing in six-figure incomes.

In December 2007, only 1,868 Department of Defense employees were making $150,000 or more. In June this year, that number shot up to 10,100. And the Department of Transportation boasts some impressive figures, too. At the start of the economic meltdown, only one person was making $170,000 or higher. Eighteen months into the worst recession since the Great Depression, and that number grew exponentially to 1,690.

These changes mean that the average federal employee's salary is now $71,206, compared to a private sector average of $40,331.

Now there are certainly two sides to this. One is that the government does employ a great deal of highly-trained specialists, such as research scientists, doctors, and lawyers. And a federal employees' lobbyist told USA Today that federal workers make about 26% less than they would in the private sector, at comparable jobs.

Daniela Perdomo is a contributing writer & blogger at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter.
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