Despite predictions of an exodus of unhappy/fearful federal workers, the Retirement Tsunami predicted by many has, once again, failed to happen. For the third straight month after feds (and the rest of the nation) learned who won in November, the number of federal workers who retired in February (9,114) is about 2,000 fewer than the number of retirements in February 2016. While the Office of Personnel Management’s backlog of claims processed is rising, the number of people retiring is actually falling.
In January, about 100 fewer feds retired than did in the same month last year. The January 2017 retirement total was 3,300 fewer than the number of feds who put in their retirement papers in January 2015.
According to the Government Accountability Office, about 31 percent of the total federal workforce— roughly 600,000 federal and postal workers — is eligible to retire right now. Today if they wish. A survey conducted by Federal News Radio indicated that 35 percent of those responding said the transition “would play a role in their retirement plans.” Another 18 percent said they would wait to see who emerged victorious last November and would become their new POTUS. Now we know, yet the predicted surge-to-retire hasn’t happened. How come? Several possibilities:
It could be that the people who predicted a Trump Retirement Tsunami didn’t know what they were talking about. Or they were blinded by conformational bias that clouded the tea leaves they were reading.
It could be that lots of retirement-eligible feds, one in every three people now on the payroll, just aren’t ready to go. Some don’t like what they are seeing in the outside — non-federal — job market. Those who would like to transition to be civilian contractors working for the government might be waiting to see if Congress OKs the big Defense buildup the president has called for, and approves the big bucks for a badly needed overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure, starting with roads with potholes and sinkholes and bridges — including hundreds in the metro Washington area — that show signs of serious structural problems.
It could be that who is president, good or bad, means less to people who need jobs. Or they like the jobs they are doing and the services they provide or make possible. Why quit, or retire, before your time just because your candidate didn’t prevail? Applications for federal employment and recruiting in the armed forces jumped big-time after the 9/11 attacks. It could be that many people who joined the government at that time did so for the long haul.
It could be that the March retirement numbers (which will come out about this time in April) will tell a different story. What if everybody, for whatever reason, who could retire actually retired? If not March, maybe April will bring a massive wave of retirements.
Or it could be that the predicted wave of anti-Trump retirements will fizzle like the Dreaded Retirement Tsunami, first forecast in 1999 that is yet to hit land.