Federal retirements spiked in September to nearly 12,000 — the highest amount since January.
The 11,952 retirement claims received by the Office of Personnel Management represent a 33 percent increase over August.
The steadily increasing numbers of retirement claims suggests the long-predicted retirement wave arrived in 2011 and is continuing. During the first three quarters of 2011, retirements were up nearly 22 percent over 2010 levels. Retirements for all of 2011 were up 24 percent over 2010 levels.
In the first nine months of 2012, 86,676 federal employees have applied for retirement — a nearly 8 percent increase over the same time last year.
Retirements have been driven up in recent years by repeated rounds of buyouts and early retirements. Some employees say years of frozen pay scales and threats to cut their retirement benefits have led them to consider retiring earlier.
Nearly 3,000 mail handlers accepted $15,000 buyouts in August and retired by the end of that month; it is possible that some of those retirements were included in September’s numbers.
But despite the spike in retirements, OPM was able to whittle its backlog of unprocessed retirement claims down 1 percent to 41,176 in September. OPM processed 12,563 claims last month, the most so far this year.
OPM earlier this year hired 56 new specialists to process retirement claims as part of an effort to fix a decades-old problem with sluggish pension processing.