According to the federal government’s human resource office, 1.5 in 10 federal employees qualify for retirement, but that number is accepted to rise to three in 10 employees. For years, federal officials have warned of the potential wave of retirement with baby boomer generation employees reaching their pension eligibility time.
While a surge in retirement has yet to happen, government retirement numbers have increased a bit in the last ten years but dropped the last three years. There has also been a decrease in the number of voluntary retirements in the last few years but increased 18 percent in the last ten years.
The Office of Personnel Management said about 14 percent of federal employees could retire if they so choose. However, the department believes that number will increase to 30 percent in the next five years.
Due to the prior presidential administrations focus on hiring younger employees and ordering sufficient succession planning, several agencies are better off than other agencies.
The HUD office (Housing and Urban Development Department) has the most retirement-eligible employees of any major government agency (24 percent). In five years time, this will increase to about half of its workforce (45 percent). NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency also have at least 20 percent of its workers eligible for retirement. NASA will see a 44 percent eligibility rate come 2023.
Employees are deemed eligible for retirement when they attain full benefits under either the Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System.
Both the Homeland Security Department and Small Business Administration don’t have to worry so much with the retirement wave. For now, the SBA has one in 10 employees that are eligible that will likely grow to one in five in five years. Only 10 percent of the HSD is eligible for retirement.
Despite the number of voluntary retirement increasing, the agencies with a high number of potential retirees have yet to have any major consequences. NASA retirements have been steady the last few years, and HUD retirements in 2017 were at their lowest in eight years. It’s the EPA, however, that saw the largest retirement rate of all agencies – 46 percent.
Of course, the problem is getting nationwide attention. Government officials and lawmakers are refocusing efforts on hiring young employees, and agencies are adding in a possible employee exodus to their risk assessments and strategic plans.
IRS Chief Risk Officer Tom Brandt said it’s imperative for staff to understand the upward movement of retirement eligibility so agencies can focus and anticipate the possible wave coming. He said about one in five IRS employees could currently retire with full benefits.
The Office of Personnel Management said roughly 58,000 federal employees volunteered to retire in 2017; compared to just 39,000 10 years ago.