According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), from January to July this year, the number of federal workers filing claims has climbed to nearly 15.6 percent higher than compared to the same period last year.
Around 59,987 federal employees had filed paperwork with OPM between January and July 2017, but this year appears to show that the number at an increase (69,340) over this same period.
However, it seems that claims may be starting to dwindle down again. 8,281 federal workers filed for retirement last month with OPM (compared to 10,070 from last year in this period). Generally, July is one of the busiest retirement claim processing months, aside from January and February. By the end of July, the backlog of retirement claims reached 18,334 (an increase of around 130 from June and nearly 1,250 from July 2017).
The news of claim increases followed recent reports about one in seven federal workers being eligible to retire today, which is a rate reaching as high as one in five agencies.
The Housing and Urban Development Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA topped the list of agencies with the highest number of federal employees that are eligible for retirement.
In coping with a potential retirement wave, officials at the agencies mentioned earlier are working on succession planning, which focuses on new recruitment of civil servants as well as employee retention for those who are at or nearing retirement age.
In an interview with Government Executive, Suzanne Tufts, assistant secretary of administration, said that Secretary Ben Carson at HUD (where almost a quarter of employees are presently eligible for retirement) has “directed everyone [in leadership] to make the vibrancy and the succession planning of their workforce not only top of mind, but to start really thinking and cooperating together and working very carefully together to make that a reality.”
The increasing number of new federal service retirees follows many agency efforts to offer early retirement and buyouts to employees. However, a majority of offered buyouts would have left the government payroll last year, some have extended into 2018, such as those at the Education Department.
Regarding OPM’s backlog of increased retirement claims, July marks the third consecutive month. Pending requests are at the highest point since March at 18,334, whereas OPM’s goal was 13,000. On the bright side, average monthly processing times have been reduced; from 65 days at the end of June to only 57 in the last month.