Public-Private Pay Gap Widens

Federal employees make an average of 26 percent less than their private sector counterparts, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.

The BLS data, which was submitted to the Federal Salary Council, an independent group of salary experts, union representatives and federal officials that makes determinations each year on the allocations of locality pay, showed that the average gap widened by 2.25 percentage points over last year in favor of private sector workers.

Federal employees are currently in the midst of a two-year pay freeze that started in 2011. In May, the Presidents Pay Agent decided that federal workers would not receive an increase in locality pay in 2012.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are calling for an extension of the current pay freeze, despite the BLS findings. Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called on the deficit reduction super committee to extend the two-year civilian pay freeze for an additional three years and eliminate step increases. Bipartisan leaders in the Senate also called for the committee to extend the current two-year freeze for an additional year and that federal pension contributions by federal employees increase by 1.2 percent.

In addition, a report released last month by Robert Half International found that technology jobs in the private sector are expected to see the largest salary gains among all job fields in the coming year, with IT salaries projected to rise an average of 4.5 percent.

The pay gap may "come as a surprise to those in Congress calling for draconian cuts to federal pay and benefits as a means to 'bring federal compensation more in line with the private sector,'" said William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. "The reality is that bringing federal compensation practices in line with the private sector would require a hefty pay increase for federal workers."

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