Federal agencies for several years had increased the number of federal retirees they hired but that number has slipped somewhat in recent years, GAO has reported.

GAO was examining issues surrounding several special authorities allowing agencies, with OPM approval required in most cases, to bring back retirees with a waiver of the usual requirement that rehired annuitants must have their salaries offset by the amounts of their annuities. GAO recommended that OPM keep better track of that data in order to help better inform personnel decisions. Rehired annuitants are a potential source of employees for agencies to bridge skills gaps, it said; they commonly work full-time as opposed to part-time, although only for limited periods of between one and five years.

In the course of its work, GAO generated data on retiree hiring by the government in general. It found that over the period 2004-2010, the number of rehired annuitants onboard agencies increased from about 3,000 to about 10,000, but then trailed off to about 7,000 in 2013. (GAO did not provide specific figures but only presented the data in graph form.) The decline could be due to general hiring restrictions due to budget limits of recent years, it said.

It also found that hiring of uniformed services retirees—who in many cases are still in their 40s—is far more common that rehiring of retired civilian federal employees, and that the agency that does by far the greatest amount of rehiring of each is DoD.

The data reinforce a commonly used argument that federal retirees who wish to continue having a hand in their work have relatively few opportunities to do so, especially if they would not be willing to accept the salary/annuity offset. That was one main reason for enactment of the phased retirement authority, which however has been very slow in getting off the ground since its passage in mid-2012.