Wages and Income » By Sector » Public vs. Private Sector

Wages of public employees are typically lower than those of people working in private companies with similar levels of education and work experience.

Many public sector jobs – such as teachers and social workers – require college or graduate degrees, while some of the largest private sector occupations – such as cashiers and waiters – require little formal education. In Washington, 48.3% of state and local government employees have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 31.4% of private sector workers in the state.

Change in Average Annual Wages by Sector, Public vs. Private, WA, 2008-2009 >
Source: Analysis of 2009 Current Population Survey data by Jeffrey Keefe, EPI 2010

Public employee benefits are on the chopping block across the country as state and local governments look for ways to further reduce spending. Critics frequently point to better benefits in the public sector, and advocate cutting public employee pension, health, and other benefits.

However, even with better benefits calculated into the equation, a number of analyses have found that public employees receive less total compensation than their private sector peers