Recent Data Trends on Retirement From Government Jobs

Since the mid-1990s, experts have warned of a coming “retirement tsunami” when it comes to the federal sector. Numbers thus far have remained consistent, with occasional peaks before dropping to a relatively predictable number.

Federal Retirement Data Trends of 2019 and 2018

The trend also progressed into 2019. According to data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), analyzed by the Federal News Network, nearly 6,000 fewer federal workers retired in 2019 than in 2018.

In 2019, OPM processed 101,580 retirements for prior federal workers. That number surpasses federal retirement data from the final years of the Obama administration, a time when roughly 95,000 federal employees retired annually.  

During 2018, OPM handled 107,612 retirement forms, the highest number in five years. The figure previously peaked in 2013 when federal workers faced their third year of administrative furloughs and frozen pay due to a 16-day shutdown of the government alongside sequestration. Researchers wondered if this would lead to the “retirement tsunami.”

In 2018, HR offices scrambled to process retirement applications after the 35-day government shutdown during the Trump administration, noting a rise in the number of applicants. For now, the number has reduced slightly, but human capital experts wonder what 2020 will bring as the world deals with pressing concerns with the pandemic.

What’s to Come?

As of 2022, 31% of federal workers are eligible for retirement. Many federal employees plan to retire at the official age of 62 as the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) offers financial incentives to work until then. Retiring at this time allows federal employees to receive maximum benefits, especially if they have taken advantage of investment opportunities.

As agency budgets and resources fluctuate, federal workers stress regarding waiting to take the full benefit or to secure their financial future in the present. Recent updates suggest that numbers remain steady. However, as roughly a third of federal workers become eligible for retirement in 2022, the figures may peak similarly to 2018.

As of June 2022, the Federal Reserve reported that those who retired in 2020 indicated that COVID-related factors affected the timing of their decision to retire—while the typical reasons remained consistent with previous findings in a 2021 survey. The Federal Reserve also found that:

  • 27% of adults in 2021 considered themselves to be retired, though some still worked in some capacity. 
  • 14% of retirees had done some work for pay or profit in the prior month. 
  • 4% of all adults considered themselves retired and were still working. Retirees with more education were slightly more likely to work in retirement.

Overall, the financial well-being of all retirees remains stable—even given the significant changes in administration and COVID-related factors. For those ready to retire from government jobs, it seems to be the time to make the most of changing times in general.

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