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OPM figures do not support projections of a potential wave of retirements by federal employees in order to avoid having to comply with the administration’s Coronavirus vaccine mandate.

A contention that the government will suffer a brain drain of retirement-eligible employees who otherwise would continue working — about 15 percent of federal employees already are eligible to retire — has been one of the arguments against the mandate. That mandate recently was blocked by a federal court, an action that is under appeal.

However, OPM’s latest accounting of retirement applications shows that it received 13,266 in January, about 600 fewer than it received in January 2021. Because of the time involved in processing retirement applications at the employing agency before they are sent to OPM, those numbers largely reflect people who put in their applications in the month before.

There always is a spike in retirement applications in December (and early January in some cases) for reasons including maximizing the payout for unused annual leave. But during that time period the mandate was in effect with the administration having told agencies that as of the turn of the year they could begin taking serious discipline against non-compliant employees including suspensions and firing.

The OPM figures also include retirements of Postal Service employees, who would not have been subject to the general federal workplace mandate—although they would have been subject to a separate one covering private sector employers that was set to begin around the same time but which the U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated.

OPM does not keep running data on resignations; the most recent quarterly numbers go only through June, before the mandate was issued.

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