The Cato Institute has pointed out, with much indignation, that Federal Pay Continues its Rapid Ascent while private sector pay lags behind:
The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its annual data on compensation levels by industry (Tables 6.2D, 6.3D, and 6.6D here). The data show that the pay advantage enjoyed by federal civilian workers over private-sector workers continues to expand.
As much as I feel like lighting up a Cohiba after seeing the above chart, I realize that the public-private pay disparity can't really be quite that large. The Federal workforce is comparatively very small (about 1.9 million out of about 108 million employees in the private sector), and is heavily weighted toward professional jobs (since everything else is contracted out), therefore head-to-head comparisons tell us little.
For another thing, the federal job market has a certain barrier to entry in the form of personnel security clearances. I'd love to see an economic study that quantified the monetary value of Top Secret clearances; when I was a contractor performing staff-like functions for the same office where I now work as a direct hire employee, we generally considered that a contractor job candidate who had a current, transferable, TS clearance was worth another $10,000 in annual salary. The need for many, possibly most, federal employees to have some level of security clearance certainly restricts the labor market, and that should result in somewhat higher salaries. The Cato Institute is a free-market economics kind of place, isn't it? Why don't they sponsor such an analysis?
p.s. - Regarding those Cohibas and other fine Cuban cigars that one often sees for sale while on TDY outside the United States, don't think of it as trading with the enemy, think of it as burning their crops!