Key Issues > Federal and Private Sector Pay Comparisons
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Federal and Private Sector Pay Comparisons

A careful consideration of federal pay is an essential part of fiscal stewardship and is necessary to support the recruitment and retention of a competent, successful workforce.

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It is the policy of Congress that pay for federal workers under the General Schedule--the pay system covering the majority of federal employees—be in line with pay for comparable nonfederal workers. However, recent studies comparing the compensation of federal employees to workers in other sectors arrived at different conclusions as to which sector had the higher pay and the size of the pay disparities.

We reviewed 6 key studies issued since 2005 and determined that their findings differed because they each used different approaches, methods, and data. As a result, their findings should not be taken in isolation as the answer to how federal pay and total compensation compares with other sectors. When looking within and across the studies, it is important to understand their methodological differences because they affect how the studies can be interpreted.

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