GAO Report on Recent Trends in Federal Civilian Employment and Compensation

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 29, 2014

FEDERAL WORKFORCE: Recent Trends in Federal Civilian Employment and Compensation, GAO-14-215, Jan 29, 2014

“From 2004 to 2012, the federal non-postal civilian workforce grew by 258,882 employees, from 1.88 million to 2.13 million (14 percent). Permanent career employees accounted for most of the growth, increasing by 256,718 employees, from 1.7 million in 2004 to 1.96 million in 2012 (15 percent). Three agencies–the Departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), and Veterans Affairs (VA)–accounted for about 94 percent of this increase. At DOD, officials said that converting certain positions from military to civilian, as well as the growth of the agency’s acquisition and cybersecurity workforce, contributed to this overall increase. At VA, officials said the increased demand for medical and health related services for military veterans drove most of the growth in personnel levels. DHS officials said the increase in employment was due in large part to the nation’s border security requirements. (In contrast, ten agencies had fewer career permanent employees in 2012 than they did in 2004). Government-wide, most of the increase in employment from 2004 to 2012 occurred within occupational categories that require higher skill and educational levels. These categories include professional occupations (e.g., doctors and scientists), and administrative occupations (e.g., financial and program managers), as opposed to clerical, technical, and blue collar occupations (which remained stable). In terms of turnover, retirement rates remained relatively flat (at around 3.5 percent) from 2004 until the start of the recession in December 2007. Retirement rates fell to a low of around 2.5 percent during the recession in 2009, and then increased to pre-recession rates in 2011 and 2012. With respect to retirement eligibility, of the 1.96 million permanent career employees on board as of September 2012, nearly 270,000 (14 percent) were eligible to retire. By September 2017, nearly 600,000 (around 31 percent) will be eligible to retire, government-wide.”

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