Can you r-e-a-d this without moving your lips?

If your office was forming a team to prep you for an appearance on Jeopardy, would you feel more confident with the gang you work with now, or the folks you started out with 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Have things improved with age or has time taken its toll?

Twenty years after the first alerts of an impending, massive brain drain from the government, most federal agencies are still waiting for the dreaded retirement tsunami to hit. Meanwhile, the workforce is getting noticeably older — and more workers are delaying their retirement dates.

Beginning in the late 1990s, some experts warned of dire consequences to taxpayers as government experts aged out and bailed as soon as they were eligible. Instead, well, look around you. And for many of us, check the image in the mirror. Are you somewhere traveling and surfing or does much of your social life revolve around a car pool?

The warnings were so frequent, and the numbers so compelling, analyzing and studying the coming brain drain became a cottage industry in Washington D.C., where bad news is often good news for the capital lawyers, lobbyists, journalists and a high percentage of psychiatrists.


Despite repeated warnings that Uncle Sam would soon lose much, if not most of, his institutional mind, the statistical evidence isn’t there. In fact feds are retiring later, not sooner, than ever before. The average age of retirement for D.C. based feds is 62.2, while it is 63 in Maryland and 61.8 in Virginia. The three have 15% of the total civilian federal workforce. To see what it is where you work, click here.

When President Trump was elected, many experts predicted there would be a tidal wave of feds quitting or retiring from government. Especially in places like the Environmental Protection Agency, Education Department, and the State Department. When the numbers didn’t jump, the bail-out date was shifted to Inauguration Day. Again, the monthly retirement rates remained largely unchanged.

Meantime, the government workforce continues to gray. Many workers say their workplaces look more like Social Security appeals offices than graduate schools. According to FedSmith, the average age of the federal workforce went to 47.1 in 2012, up from 46.9 in 2011. The median age also crept up from 48.1 in 2011, to 48.3 the following year.

We reported in February that retirements in 2018 jumped by 12,000 over the previous year, but said it was too soon to say this was the tsunami. Some government watchers predicted mass exodus — “the Trump bump” — of civil servants. The jump from 2017 to 2018 was evidence for some people. But the number, while a five-year high, was still fewer than 2013 when 114,697 left. Some say that exodus was triggered by three years without pay raises. That included two imposed by the Obama administration, which also introduced sequestration that led to a series of lengthy furloughs which, unlike the infamous shutdowns, meant employees who didn’t or couldn’t work didn’t get paid.

Bottom line: Drawing brain-drain conclusions from the moving target numbers is easier said than done. Late last year we reported that the average age of retirement was 61.8 and rising — and that retirements were up 24% from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2018.

Something is definitely going on. What that is is less clear.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

By now you have probably seen the California state flag that prominently features a grizzly bear. One would assume given that the grizzly is the official state animal and its appearance on the flag that there are grizzly bears roaming the valleys and mountains of California. But that is not the case at all. In fact, as California began to get increasingly populated, the grizzly bears stood their ground and interfered with settlement efforts, so people began to track and kill them. The last known bear was killed all the way back in 1922.

Source: California State Library

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