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Pinedale Online > News > September 2011 > Federal paid holidays cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars
Federal paid holidays cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars
by Pinedale Online!
September 5, 2011

Monday, September 5th, is being celebrated as "Labor Day." It is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September to celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.

While we are, and should be, very grateful for the service of the American workforce, we wonder how much it is costing the American taxpayer to reward "public servants" for work they never provide? Many American workers who have jobs aren’t working today because it is one of the many paid holidays they get off at taxpayer’s expense.

Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes ten public holidays for Federal employees.

2011 federal holidays:
Friday, December 31, 2010*: New Year’s Day
Monday, January 17: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 20: Inauguration Day (every 4th year)
Monday, February 21**: Washington’s Birthday
Monday, May 30: Memorial Day
Monday, July 4: Independence Day
Monday, September 5: Labor Day
Monday, October 10: Columbus Day
Friday, November 11: Veterans Day
Thursday, November 24:Thanksgiving Day
Monday, December 26***: Christmas Day

On these days, non-essential federal government offices are closed. All federal employees are paid for the holiday. Those who are required to work on the holiday sometimes receive holiday pay for that day in addition to their ordinary wages.

Most Federal employees work on a Monday through Friday schedule. When a holiday falls on a weekend, it is usually observed on the closest weekday. When a holiday falls on a non-workday -- Saturday or Sunday -- the holiday usually is observed on Monday, if the holiday falls on Sunday, or Friday, if the holiday falls on Saturday.

For some federal employees, there is an eleventh federal holiday. The 11th is "Inauguration Day," on January 20, every fourth year, following Presidential election for swearing-in of the President of the United States and other elected federal officials. It is observed only by federal employees who work in Washington, D.C., Montgomery or Prince George's counties in Maryland, Arlington or Fairfax counties in Virginia, or the cities of Alexandria or Falls Church in Virginia, in order to relieve congestion that occurs due to this major event. This holiday takes place on January 21 if the 20th is a Sunday (although the President still takes the oath of office on the 20th).

How much do these days off given federal employees for not working cost the American taxpayer?

We couldn’t find an official source that tallies that cost. However, there are several articles written about the cost of benefits for federal employees. By all appearances from the data we could gather, the cost to the American taxpayer for paying federal employees not to work for each holiday runs in the hundreds of millons of dollars:

The Annual Cost of US Federal Government Civilian Employees (

Bush holiday extension to cost $450 million (Washington Times, December 15, 2008)

Federal Holidays Cost $500 Million (, 2002)

Eliminate commute tax subsidy for federal holidays

Downsizing the Federal Government - Overpaid Federal Workers (Cato Institute, June 2010)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the fiscal year (FY) 2011 federal budget deficit to be $1.3 trillion (source).

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the federal government has about 2.0 million civilian employees. The federal government, excluding the post office, is the nation’s largest employer. (Because data on employment in certain agencies cannot be released to the public for national security reasons, this total does not include employment for the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.) In addition to Federal employees working throughout the United States, about 35,000, which includes foreign nationals, are assigned overseas, mostly in embassies or defense installations.

According to the BLS, the average civilian US federal government employee salary in 2009 was $74,403. Average salaries range from $34,728 for nursing assistants up to $128,422 for a general attorney. (Interesting statistic: financial management people average annual salary is $119,671, accounting $91,541, librarians $84,796, border patrol agents $59,594, police $52,085.) Wages earned in the government sector now surpass average wages in the private sector. salary statistics source

Figure the cost of paid day-off holidays, and add in unemployment compensation and welfare, and it is clear the U.S. Government is spending huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to pay people not to work.

Benefits and union membership
In addition to paying people for days not worked, taxpayers are also giving federal employees big dollars for benefits as part of their wage compensation. Federal employees generally receive health and life insurance options that are partially subsidized by the Government (taxpayers). In addition, workers hired after January 1, 1984, participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), a three-tiered retirement plan including Social Security, a pension plan, and an optional Thrift Savings Plan—a savings program that is similar to many 401(k) plans. Worker participation in the Thrift Savings Plan is voluntary, but contributions are tax-deferred, and, up to a point, matched by the Federal Government (taxpayers). In addition to other benefits, some Federal agencies provide public transit subsidies in an effort to encourage employee use of public transportation. Federal employees receive both paid vacation and sick leave. They earn 13 days of vacation leave a year for the first 3 years of service, 20 days a year for the next 12 years, and 26 days a year after their 15th year of service. Workers also receive 13 days of paid sick leave a year.

Holiday notes:
* January 1, 2011 (the legal public holiday for New Year’s Day), falls on a Saturday. For most Federal employees, Friday, December 31, 2010, will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes. (See 5 U.S.C. 6103(b).)

** This holiday is designated as "Washington’s Birthday" in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

*** December 25, 2011 (the legal public holiday for Christmas Day), falls on a Sunday. For most Federal employees, Monday, December 26, will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes. (See section 3(a) of Executive order 11582, February 11, 1971.)

Related Links
  • Office of Personnel Management – Federal Paid Holidays
  • Federal holidays in the United States - Wikipedia
  • United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Congressional Budget Office
  • U.S. Debt Clock
  • Pinedale Online > News > September 2011 > Federal paid holidays cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars

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