The federal non-postal civilian workforce has grown by 14 percent from 2004 to 2012 – mostly on account of permanent career employees – according to a GAO report on trends in federal employment released last week.

“The recession largely bypassed the Federal government,” explained James Sherk, a Senior Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation. “While the private sector still has not recovered the jobs lost during the 2008-2009 downturn, the Federal government has substantially more employees than it did in late 2007.”

The “workforce grew by 258,882 employees, from 1.88 million to 2.13 million” from 2004 to 2012, while “[s]pending on total government-wide compensation for each full-time equivalent (FTE) position grew by an average of 1.2 percent per year, from $106,097 in 2004 to $116,828 in 2012,” according to the report.

The report noted that “the Departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), and Veterans Affairs (VA) – accounted for about 94 percent” of the workforce increase.

Per employee, “spending rose at an average annual rate of 1 percent per year (a 7.9 percent increase overall).”

“On average federal employees make more than equivalently skilled workers in the private sector,” Sherk noted. “Federal employees should not have to make financial sacrifices to serve the public, but they shouldn’t get overpaid either. The government should aim for parity between private and government pay.”

A 2012 CBO report revealed that “[f]ederal workers whose education culminated in a bachelor’s degree averaged 15 percent higher total compensation than their private-sector counterparts,” while average benefits for the same category of federal workers “were 46 percent higher.”

Meanwhile, the GAO found that a growing number of “retirement-eligible employees in the years ahead may be cause for concern: Their retirement could produce mission critical skills gaps if left unaddressed.”

“The government allows its employees to retire in their mid-to-late 50s with a full pension,” Sherk said. “Congress should raise the federal retirement age to the Social Security retirement age.”

According to The Washington Post, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) claimed in December that a pay raise for federal employees under the Ryan-Murray budget deal would be justified. “Because of this agreement, federal employees can get their cost-of-living increase and they will no longer face the uncertainties of furloughs and pay cuts,” she said.

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.