Newly released data by OPM suggest that the much-touted coming “retirement wave” of federal employees has already passed, with the numbers of employees retiring having declined in 2014 to the second-lowest level of the past decade.
The retirement wave phenomenonis based on the concept of increasing numbers of employees meeting age and service combinations for voluntary retirement as the baby boom generation ages into eligibility. The idea has been the subject of sometimes dire warnings for years—some have labeled it a “tsunami”—and has been the basis for initiatives including the phased retirement authority and renewed emphasis on agency succession planning.
However, the OPM data show that in fiscal 2014, which concluded last September, 53,798 federal employees retired, compared with 65,250 in 2013 and 69,320 in 2012.
From 2005-2008, the number annually fell in the 59,000-62,000 range, but then dropped to 46,100 in 2009 and 52,660 in 2010 as the impact of the recession was felt in the form of individuals delaying retirement. The number picked up to 64,238 in 2011 and peaked in 2012, reflecting, in many cases, retirements by employees who would have retired earlier except for the impact of the recession.
Some higher numbers of retirements that commonly are reported include the U.S. Postal Service, which has been offering early retirements to employees over several years; the OPM figures reflect the executive branch outside of USPS.
Total separations in 2014, counting those who quit, were RIF’d, terminated (the large majority of them temporary employees not renewed as opposed to removals for performance or conduct reasons) or died in service, fell to 142,639. That was the lowest total in the period by far, about 50,000 below the next-lowest year, 2009, and about 90,000 below the highest year in that time, 2005.