Report: Feds Are Increasingly Interested in Leaving for Certain Private Sector Jobs

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An estimated 50% pay gap in technology jobs could be a driving factor, researchers say.

Federal employees are showing increased interest in leaving government for private sector technology jobs, according to a new report, and have become especially enticed since last year’s record-setting government shutdown. 

The overall American workforce's interest in tech jobs has dropped off by an average of 8% when compared to the same month two years ago, according to research conducted by the employment website indeed.com, while federal employees’ interest has spiked 11%. Indeed made its findings based on its tracking of when users click on job postings. 

The gap was particularly pronounced among feds already in tech. The click-rate on technology positions for those employees has grown 6% since 2018, Indeed found, while the rate for the tech workers writ large has dropped by 21%. The researchers expect the trend to continue. 

Indeed suggested several causes for the divergence. Federal workers' interest in private sector tech jobs was particularly high during the shutdown last winter. It has declined since, but the gap between the federal and private sector has continued to grow. Indeed found, after controlling for cost of living in metropolitan areas and the job mix available, the average annual salary for private sector workers in tech is about $40,000 higher than that for government employees. Additionally, less than 2% of the private sector tech jobs posted on indeed.com require a top-secret security clearance, compared to 12% of federal jobs. 

“Consider the benefits of a private sector tech job: higher salaries, fewer or no security clearance requirements, tempting perks such as working remotely, and, in a few cases, on-site gyms, dogs at work and fully stocked snack bars,” the researchers wrote. 

Agencies in the Washington area could be particularly vulnerable to a tech workforce exodus, they said, noting that “Amazon’s HQ2 is rising just a stone’s throw from the Pentagon.” 

Indeed’s report follows findings it put out last year that demonstrated as the 35-day shutdown dragged on, employees at impacted agencies showed dramatically increased interest in private sector jobs of all kinds. The same was generally not true at agencies that were fully funded.