Cost of Federal Employees Who Said They'd Quit Under Trump: $65 Billion

Poll says 25 percent would leave, but going to private sector could mean big pay cuts

Back when the idea of Donald Trump becoming president was not taken seriously, the media picked up on a poll done in February that found that 1 in 4 federal employees would quit if Trump went on to win the election.

Many Trump voters might not object to that outcome, but it’s unlikely: The federal employees who said they’d quit make on average $120,000-plus a year if the cost of benefits is included.

The free-market Cato Institute tracks federal employee salaries and benefits and has posted the information on a website called

There are 2.1 million civilian federal employees — people who don’t wear a military uniform. If 25 percent of them quit that would mean 525,000 fewer people on the federal payroll.

The average total compensation for federal employees (salary plus benefits) was $123,160 in 2015. So if 525,000 of them quit their jobs the federal government would reduce its annual spending by $64.7 billion.

Looking at just wages and not benefits, the average salary for a federal civilian worker was $86,365 in 2015. By comparison, the average salary of a private sector worker in the U.S. that year was $58,726.

Many people assume that government workers earn less than their private sector counterparts, said Chris Edwards, editor of

“It used to be that government employees were paid less than private sector employees but that has changed dramatically in the last few decades,” Edwards said.

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