Does the Government Pay More than the Private Sector?

Federal employees in a number of industries make more money than their private sector colleagues, an analysis from USA Today suggests. The analysis, however, leaves out factors, like an employee's level of experience or specific industry, that could impact their salary.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that federal employees in occupations that exist in both the public and private sectors made an average salary of $67,691 in 2008, USA Today reports. Meanwhile, private sector workers in those occupations made $60,046. Government data also shows federal workers received benefits valued at $40,785, compared with benefits valued at $9,882 for private sector workers.

Concerns about the federal budget deficit have put federal salaries under new scrutiny. The federal government spends about $125 billion a year to pay about 2 million civilian employees, USA Today reported.

The list of jobs that reportedly receive higher pay from the federal government includes accountant, janitor, chemist, public relations manager and registered nurse.

However, National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley told USA Today the survey "compares apples and oranges" because some public sector professionals -- such as accountants -- perform more complex work than their private sector counterparts. She said federal employees are paid an average of 26 percent less than non-federal workers doing comparable work.

Additionally, public sector jobs have a more limited salary range. For instance, USA Today's analysis showed that the average civil engineer in 2008 made $85,970 working for the federal government and $76,184 working in the private sector, a difference of nearly $10,000. The analysis also showed that electrical engineers and mechanical engineers made more working for the federal government as well.

However, the 2009 Engineering Income and Salary Survey, produced in partnership with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Society of Professional Engineers, concluded that in 2009, federally-employed engineers made just under the average income of engineers. The average total annual income of the surveyed engineers was $101,440, while the median income for federal employees was $100,650.

The results varied by the industry in which the engineers were employed. For instance, those employed by the petroleum and natural gas industry had a median income of $120,000, and engineers in communications services made $115,576. Those working in the transportation services industry, meanwhile, had a median income of $87,000.