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Federal Employees Paid A Quarter Less Than The Private Sector: BLS

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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WORKERS
The US Department of Agriculture building is shown in Washington, DC, 21 July 2007. Federal workers make more than 25 percent less than private sector workers on average, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found. | Getty

Federal workers make more than a quarter less than private sector employees doing similar jobs, according to a recent study.

Federal employees make 26.3 percent less than private sector workers on average, a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found, cited by the Washington Post. The figures were compiled for the Federal Salary Council, a group made up of union representatives, federal officials and other wage experts. One member of the council says the widening gap is largely a result of the federal employee pay freeze that President Obama's administration announced last year.

Despite the BLS findings, the debate over whether public or private sector workers make more money likely won't be put to rest any time soon. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found that public sector worker wages exceeded private sector pay by 22 percent, another article by The Washington Post notes. USA Today also found that wages for public sector workers was higher than those for private sector workers in 83 percent of similar occupations, according to an analysis the paper published last year.

But there is also some evidence backing the BLS's findings. According to a study from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute public sector employees are underpaid by 3.7 percent, compared to those in the private sector.

There have been a few notorious examples of high public sector worker pay that have stoked criticism against public sector wages. One California prison nurse took home $270,000 in income, mostly due to over time pay, Bloomberg recently reported. California lifeguards also took home paychecks in the six figure range. In addition, the head parole psychiatrist for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation received nearly one million dollars in compensation last year, according to LA Weekly.

As a result, many conservatives have been pushing for more public sector layoffs and job cuts as a way to pare down budget gaps, even though the economic slowdown has forced governments to slash jobs. About 24,000 public sector jobs were lost last month, offsetting the 104,000 private sector job gains. The losses aren't new either: Since the beginning of 2010 the government has cut an average of 23,000 jobs per month or 509,000 total .

Despite the grim outlook, it seems public employees still count themselves better off. A July poll by Gallup-Healthways found that public sector employees had a better sense of well-being than those in the private sector.

Private sector employees may be more pessimistic because their wages have been slow to increase. While good news may be on the way for some low-wage employees as the minimum wage set to increase in four states next year, recent wage growth has been marginal in the private sector, barely keeping pace with rising cost of living. Last quarter, income levels for private sector employees in 20 major cities increased by just 0.4 percent when not accounting for inflation, according to wage tracker Payscale.com.

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