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Federal workers starting at much higher pay than in past
Newly hired federal workers are starting at much higher salaries than those who did the same jobs in the past, a lift that has elevated the salaries of scientists and custodians alike.
The pay hikes have made the federal government a go-to place for many young people.
A 20- to 24-year-old auto mechanic started at an average of $46,427 this year, up from $36,750 five years ago. The government hires about 400 full-time auto mechanics a year.
A 30- to 34-year-old lawyer started at an average of $101,045 this year, up from $79,177 five years ago. The government hires about 2,500 lawyers a year. And a mechanical engineer, age 25 to 29, started at $63,675, up from $51,746 in 2006. The government hires about 600 mechanical engineers a year.
Behind the boost: The government is classifying more new hires — secretaries, mail clerks, chaplains, laundry workers, electrical engineers and wildlife biologists — as taking more demanding versions of their jobs and deserving more pay.
The higher pay also reflects the more challenging jobs federal workers often do. The Bureau of Prisons’ 1,250 cooks earn an average of $66,225 a year. “They don’t just cook meals. They’re also correctional workers supervising inmates,” spokeswoman Traci Billingsley says.
Other findings in a USA TODAY analysis of federal workers’ pay:
•Job security. Workers are holding on tightly to their federal jobs in the weak economy. The rate of quitting has fallen 29% since 2007. Ordinary retirements are down 11%. Early retirements are down two-thirds. Disability departures have dropped one-third. Layoffs are increasingly rare, too. Under the Obama administration, layoffs from reorganizations have dropped by two-thirds to fewer than 300 a year in the 2.1 million person workforce. Workers are 13 times more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off from the federal government.
•$100,000. The portion of federal workers earning $100,000 or more grew from 12% in 2006 to 22% in 2011.