(UNDATED) - The government is having a hard time finding young people to work for it, the federal government in particular.
An analysis by the Wall Street Journal showed that the percentage of federal government employees under the age of 30 was seven-percent as of last year. In 1975, more than 20-percent of the federal workforce was under 30.
One economist says that was during an era of government expansion, with the creation of new agencies like the Education Department. Now, the brightest young people are choosing the private sector over even good paying agencies.
"NASA is having a problem. Research laboratories are having a problem. It's sort of ubiquitous," said Mike Hicks, director of the Center For Business and Economic Research at Ball State University.
The Journal says about 45-percent of the current federal workforce is over the age of 50, and three years from now, nearly a quarter of all federal employees will be eligible to retire. Right now, few younger workers are in place to replace them, and Hicks says one reason is what he calls an upside-down pay scale.
"Probably the best paid janitors in America work for the federal government. But then you have four-star generals or a senior executive at a government agency making pennies on the dollar compared to what they could make in the private sector."
Hicks says this is not about the debate over whether the overall federal workforce should be smaller, as conservatives argue. Regardless of the size of government, we still need engineers, air traffic controllers and other highly skilled people in some government jobs.
"In those area that are so critical to us, we need the best and the brightest," and those younger workers, Hicks says, don't find government work attractive. "If you think we need federal researchers, if you think we need an FBI, we need to be thinking seriously how we can retain these people."
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