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News Link • Employee and Employer Relations

A Look at Pay for Federal Employees Compared to Their Private-Sector Counterparts

• by James D. Agresti

Compensation for federal, state, and local government employees cost U.S. taxpayers $1.9 trillion in 2016. This amounts to an average of $15,176 from every household in the United States. President Trump recently moved to rein in some of these costs by canceling pay raises for federal civilian employees, who received $331 billion in compensation during 2017.

Some politicians and an association of federal employees have criticized Trump for this action, saying that federal workers are underpaid and deserve a raise. However, a broad range of studies have found that most federal civilian employees are paid better than comparable workers in the private sector.

Trump's Action and Criticism of It

When private-sector incomes rise, federal law generally requires across-the-board pay raises for most federal civilian employees. The law gives added raises to federal workers in certain localities if their compensation is lower than private-sector workers in those areas. The law also allows the president of the U.S. to overrule these raises, and President Trump recently did so, writing:

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