Adverse Selection

From Radley Balko, this is just staggering:

Federal employees’ job security is so great that workers in many agencies are more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off or fired, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.

The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance . . .

The 1,800-employee Federal Communications Commission and the 1,200-employee Federal Trade Commission didn’t lay off or fire a single employee last year. The SBA had no layoffs, six firings and 17 deaths in its 4,000-employee workforce.

When job security is at a premium, the federal government remains the place to work for those who want to avoid losing a job. The job security rate for all federal workers was 99.43% last year and nearly 100% for those on the job more than a few years . . .

White-collar federal workers have almost total job security after a few years on the job. Last year, the government fired none of its 3,000 meteorologists, 2,500 health insurance administrators, 1,000 optometrists, 800 historians or 500 industrial property managers.

The nearly half-million federal employees earning $100,000 or more enjoyed a 99.82% job security rate in 2010. Only 27 of 35,000 federal attorneys were fired last year. None was laid off.

Forgetting for a minute the adverse selection and incentive problems from preferentially attracting folks who want to work in an environment without any accountability for performance, how can an institution that is running $1 trillion over budget not have any layoff either?


  1. Chris:

    Because they (governments in general) would rather close parks than layoff an employee.

  2. Noah:

    There's only 3100 counties so every county has it's own meteorologist. Your government at work.

  3. DrTorch:

    They are obviously the best and the brightest. Who'd want to get rid of any of them?

  4. NL_:

    It seems like 27 fired out of 35,000 is probably about the number convicted of violent criminal acts.

  5. mahtso:

    So the only measure of accountability is how many people were fired?

  6. Brian Dunbar:

    ... not have any layoff either?

    That would put people out of work.

    In bad times that would increase unemployment.

    In good times you need those guys because ... well just because.

    What are you, some kind of heartless fiend?

  7. caseyboy:

    You can't fire voters can you?

  8. Bill:

    When the link to this USA story appeared in the FEE daily mailing, the comment was, "Now if only they can eliminate death as a cause of job loss."

  9. jt:

    The real death rate is much higher. It's just that it's really hard to tell that a government employee is dead.

  10. Cardin Drake:

    If somebody wants to get the Republican nomination, they would be smart to make an issue out of federal employment. When did we suddenly have a ruling elite class? They are talking about raising the retirement age for SS to 70 and means testing benefits. The federal retirement age is 55.
    Let's raise that to 70 as well and means test federal pensions. Better yet, let's just include federal employees in social security. That could save hundreds of billions. Private pensions have pretty much vanished from the corporate world. There is no reason for federal pensions outside of SS. The main difference is that people have paid in what they will get back from SS. That is not true for federal pensions.

  11. John Moore:

    I watch NBC nightly news to see what the loons are talking about. One recurring theme is how terrible the budget cuts are for government employees. One report event talked about government layoffs as being a major economic problem! Lots of unfortunate workers were laid off, and we were told how unfair it was since they were promised a job!

    Poor, poor government workers!