Federal retirements taper off in December

Monday - 1/6/2014, 10:51am EST

Fewer federal employees filed for retirement in December than in any month in nearly the last two years, according to updated statistics from the Office of Personnel Management.

Just 4,952 federal employees filed for retirement last month. That's more than 3,400 fewer than expected, 720 fewer than in November and 200 fewer than the number who retired in December 2012.

Federal retirements have been on a multimonth decline. In eight of the last nine months, the number of employees filing for retirement fell below OPM projections.

Still, thanks to a surge in retirement cases in the first three months of the year, the total number of federal employees who retired in 2013 exceeded OPM's expectations by more than 8,000 claims. All told, 114,697 federal employees filed for retirement last year — a 7.6 percent increase above 2012 levels.

Even with fewer employees retiring in December, OPM's retirement processing failed to keep pace with projections. The agency had expected to process 11,500 retirement cases but actually ended the month clearing a little more than 6,440. It's the second month in a row OPM's retirement processing fell sharply below projections and the seventh month in all of 2013 that processing failed to meet OPM's targets.

OPM's retirement processing efforts were thwarted over the summer after the across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, curtailed the use of overtime by OPM's retirement-processing staff. That led the agency to push back its goal of clearing a longstanding backlog of retirement cases — originally slated for September — to this summer. Limited overtime was later restored.

The backlog of retirement cases now stands at 12,637 cases — a nearly 70 percent decline from a peak of more than 41,000 cases earlier in the year.

January is typically a popular month to retire, and OPM expects to receive 20,000 retirement applications this month. The agency is aiming to process 11,500 clams.

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