Government Workers Are Absent From Their Jobs More Than Private-Sector Workers

In public sector, federal employees absent more than those who work for states

Man working hard

Man working hard / AP


A higher percentage of government workers were absent from their jobs for personal obligations or illnesses than private-sector workers, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS counts a person as "absent" when a full-time employee works less than 35 hours during a reference week for reasons such as illness, family or personal obligations, injury, medical problems, child care problems, civic or military duty or maternity or paternity leave.

In 2014, which is the latest data available, 3.7 percent of public sector workers reported being absent from work compared to 2.8 percent of private-sector workers. This means a government worker was 32 percent more likely to be absent than a private-sector worker. The data was unchanged from 2013.

Since 2012, the share of government and private sector workers with absences declined. In 2012, 4 percent of public sector workers were absent from their jobs in comparison to 2.9 percent of private sector workers who had absences.

The BLS tracks absent rates for federal, state, and local government workers.  In 2014, federal government workers had the highest absent rate of 4.2 percent, outnumbering state government workers with 3.7 percent and local government workers with 3.5 percent.

Government workers also missed more of their usual work hours as a result of such absences than did private sector workers. In 2014, according to BLS, private sector workers missed 1.4 percent of their usual work hours as a result of absences and government workers missed 2 percent of their usual work hours because of absences. Government workers missed 42.9 percent more of their usual work hours as a result of absences than private-sector workers did.

Ali Meyer

Ali Meyer   Email Ali | Full Bio | RSS
Ali Meyer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon covering economic issues that expose government waste, fraud, and abuse. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was a multimedia reporter with where her work appeared on outlets such as Drudge Report and Fox News. She also interned with the Heritage Foundation and Pacific Research Institute. Her Twitter handle is @DJAliMeyer, and her email address is

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