Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
More than 10,000 federal employees submitted retirement claims in March — more than twice as many as the government expected.
According to statistics released Friday by the Office of Personnel Management, 10,183 feds retired last month. The government had predicted 5,000 feds would retire in March. And March’s retirement figures are well over the 7,090 who retired in March 2012.
Some experts think the continuing increases in monthly retirement figures show the government is experiencing a troubling retirement wave. So far, 52,744 employees have retired in 2013. That is almost 51 percent more than the 34,984 who retired in the first quarter of 2012, 66 percent higher than the 31,629 who retired in the first quarter of 2011, and nearly twice the number who retired in the first quarter of 2010.
February also saw an exceptionally large number of federal employees retire: 20,374. OPM attributed that to U.S. Postal Service buyouts. But experts also think that pay freezes, announced furloughs and the threat of more pay and benefits cuts are encouraging many older employees to retire.
OPM Director John Berry referred to the alarming increase in retirements during a March 20 labor-management partnership council meeting, where he warned that cracks are starting to show in the federal workforce’s recruitment and retention efforts.
“I’ve seen it this year just in terms of the number of retirements,” Berry said. “They are continuing to climb far beyond what we originally projected.”
Despite the surprising increase in retirements, the backlog of unprocessed pension claims declined in March, from 41,103 to 36,603. OPM processed 14,683 claims last month, far more than the 11,500 it expected to process.
Berry has vowed to fix the longstanding problem of federal retirees having to wait months for their full pensions. OPM will release a plan to automate pension processing as part of the fiscal 2014 budget April 10.