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Job Security The Government Way January 8, 2010

Posted by geoff in News.

Many pundits have noted that government workers are among the few categories of workers to receive significant pay increases during this recession. Must be nice.

But you don’t just get raises when you work for the government – you get unequaled job security as well (as always, click to embiggen):

Sucks to be us.


1. composmentis - January 8, 2010

Yeah, the article I read referencing the pay increases for the department of transportation chapped my ass to say the least. The knowledge that our tax dollars are being mis-used and devalued pisses me right off.

Thanks, geoff. I was in a good mood, too.

2. CRC - January 8, 2010

It is probably worth noting that a a significant amount of Educ & Health are likely government funded jobs as well. God forbid that a teacher ever get laid off, nay…they’re asking for RAISES now.

3. composmentis - January 8, 2010

Actually, I would not have a problem with pay increases for teachers. I believe if teaching paid more, the quality of teachers would increase and we’d see overall improvement in the workforce down the road. There are those who would really love to teach and would excel at it, but forego that path because it doesn’t pay enough.

4. wiserbud - January 8, 2010

I believe if teaching paid more, the quality of teachers would increase and we’d see overall improvement in the workforce down the road.

Yeah, that always works for government employees. Pay more and you get better people. Right.

5. CRC - January 8, 2010

@composmentis From what I’ve read the “under paid teacher” thing is a bit of a myth when considering all aspects of the job (time worked, time off, benefits, etc.)

6. composmentis - January 8, 2010

wiser, I suppose. After all, what do you call a person who graduated last in his/her class from medical school? Doctor.

CRC, the time off/benefits aspect is a good point.

Still, I can see better pay as an incentive for bright, driven people who want and enjoy teaching to go that direction.

7. Hotspur - January 8, 2010

Compos, the average salary of a teacher in Michigan is around $55,000. This is for about 188 days of work. Additionally, teachers took an average of 8 days off for illness or personal reasons, and still got paid.

Considering that teachers come mostly from LS&A schools, where the SAT scores are well below those of other schools of education, I would say the problem is not with their pay, but more from where they are being recruited.

In districts where the teachers earn more, it cannot be demonstrated that the education of the children is an improvement.

8. CRC - January 8, 2010

@composmentis RE: “I can see better pay as an incentive for bright, driven people who want and enjoy teaching to go that direction.”

Absolutely I agree with this as a general principle. It is something fundamental that drives the free-market and competition causing providers of products and services to keep getting better and doing a better job. However…that’s in the context of a competitive market. Education really isn’t that at all. Sure there are some private offerings, but education in America is largely government-funded. The “revenue” that pays the teachers salaries is extracted by force. The “customers” have no choice in this. So they often have little choice but to use the public schools and so now we have an incentive problem…for the teachers, schools and administrators. They, in essence, have a captive audience (or nearly so) and the incentive for them to keep getting better and providing better services is…ummm…attenuated.

The way what you’ve suggested works in a free market is that the people who are better get paid more. Those who aren’t so good get paid less.

9. scottw - January 8, 2010

Teachers pay is not the problem it is the union. Unions don’t attract motivated people.

We are currently paying about $10,000 per student per year right now, or $1,000,000 per 100 students. That is plenty of money to attract some talented teachers.

10. divemedic - January 8, 2010

I am a government worker, and not only have I not gotten a raise in 3 years, my pay and hours were cut last year. This year, we are facing more cuts. Not all government workers are overpaid and sucking down big benefits.

I don’t get time and a half for overtime until after I work 106 hours in a two week pay period. I work holidays, weekends, and I don’t get a dime in holiday pay. I have two college degrees. I have been there for 10 years, and have been promoted twice.

I started at $8.25 an hour with no college in an entry level position. I now make $19.15 an hour. My employer contributes another $3.25 an hour to my retirement account. That means I make the equivalent of $22.40.

I provide a service for my pay. I regulate no one. Sure, I made good money, but compare my hours, experience and education to an equivalent position, and you will see that I am on the low end of average.

I don’t think I have it any better than a private sector position with equivalent experience. Compare that to my wife: she has just completed her second degree, and she has a private sector job in a different field with holidays off making $15 an hour. She has only been there for 3 years. The only benefit I get that she does not is the $3 an hour towards a pension fund.

11. geoff - January 8, 2010

Not all government workers are overpaid and sucking down big benefits.

Of course not. But on average, they are doing much better than the private sector in these tough times.

12. Sobek - January 8, 2010

“Sucks to be us.”


13. geoff - January 8, 2010


Thanks, Mr. Gloaty McLoftyPerch.

14. Patterico's Pontifications » Unemployment Still at 10% - January 8, 2010

[…] the cumulative job loss is “over 8 million, with not much sign of slowing.” And in a separate post, he illustrates “Job Security the Government […]

15. BrewFan - January 8, 2010

divemedic, could you share what your job is? Your description of pay and benefits is so outside the standard deviation of government workers I am curious to know what you do.

16. BrewFan - January 8, 2010

Nevermind! I clicked the link to your blog and, voila!

17. skinbad - January 8, 2010

I believe most government workers have more security and less salary than private counterparts. I’m sure there are exceptions. When the economy is smoking, those who have taken great risk to create businesses will (rightly) have an opportunity to greatly benefit from the risk. When the economy is smoking for me, I (state employee) will probably get a three percent raise. Funding the increased costs of my insurance will probably take one percent of that. So, hopefully I’m almost keeping up with inflation. Government employees usually also enjoy pretty good insurance and retirement benefits. In a colossally bad year (last year), ten percent of my colleagues were laid off. It’s kind of a risk/reward thing. I agree that the notion of more workers in government than the private sector seems unsustainable–to put it mildly. I’m also grateful to have a job.

18. Vmaximus - January 8, 2010

While I am in “Construction” I am really in engineering. We start the construction bandwagon about a year before permits. Engineers are working on projects.
I am unemployed. So recovery is a while away.

19. Mrs. Peel - January 9, 2010

I don’t feel guilty. Sorry.

20. geoff - January 9, 2010

There seems to be some misconception that I’m criticizing government employees. Not at all. I’m criticizing the system that protects government employees from economic pangs, even when it has to borrow money to do so. That’s money that the private sector, which is hemorrhaging jobs, will eventually have to repay.

If it ever can.

21. El año en que Obama casi se estrelló con la economía « Sarah Palin en Español - January 11, 2010

[…] Finalmente, los privilegiados funcionarios gozan de una tasa de paro mucho más baja que la de los trabajadores del sector privado, como nos recuerda Geoff en Innocent Bystanders otra vez: […]

22. divemedic - January 11, 2010

To follow up my comments- of course government workers get job security. I used to work in robotics and industrial automation. A factory would hire me, I would spend six months to a year fixing their broken systems, and when I was done, they would lay me off. That happened to me 4 times in less than 5 years.

I tired of that, went back to school, and got a government job. Less pay, more idiots as bosses, but better job security.

23. geoff - January 11, 2010

All right, let me spell it out a little differently. The Obama administration has protected government jobs at the expense of private sector jobs and economic recovery. They have, in fact, added jobs in several areas. This is counterproductive to the goal of getting the private sector back on its feet – a goal that seems to be way down the administration’s list.

I’ve worked in government and I’ve worked in the private sector. Next month I may work in the government again. I have nothing against individuals trying to maximize their prospects within the system. I do have a problem with the system sacrificing the private sector to preserve the public sector.

So all I’m saying is: “Hey Obama, how about more private sector stimulus and less expansion/perpetuation of government?”

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