Security: Is job turnover high at the TSA?

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About 20 to 26 percent of TSA workers leave their jobs—or are let go—each year.

The 20 percent estimate comes from a USA Today analysis of federal data.

A higher, 26 percent figure, can be inferred from a recent post on the TSA's blog, Evolution of Security.

For years, the agency has refused to simply say how many of its staffers have joined only to later quit or be let go. But homeland security gadfly Annie Jacobsen thinks the TSA accidentally released this info on a blog entry, excerpted here:

“To date, we have terminated and sought prosecution for about 200 of our employees who have been accused of stealing, either from checked bags, passengers’ carry-ons or fellow employees. While 200 out of more than 110,000 employees is a minuscule percentage (less than one half of one percent) over the short life of the agency, one theft is too many when you are in the position of public trust as we are.”

Over at Pajamas Media, Anne breaks down this post in plain English.

—The TSA has a [Congressionally-mandated] work force of 43,000 screeners.

—TSA blog says the agency has had a total of “more than 110,000 employees” in its six-year history.

—That means more than 67,000 individuals who entered into employment contracts with TSA have left the agency over this period of six years

Meanwhile, USA Today says:

One in five screeners left between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007, federal Office of Personnel Management figures show. The turnover rate was identical the year before.

Still, it's not clear if a 20 to 26 percent annual turnover rate is high. According to the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "overall U.S. voluntary turnover" hovers around 23 percent a year, according to the most recent tally. In other words, TSA agents leave their jobs with roughly the same frequency as folks in the service industry.

No doubt, the job is often thankless. Training involves two-weeks of intensive classes, and wages are roughly $14 an hour, with about $21 for overtime.

Says USA Today:

Screener salaries, though higher than they were before the TSA was created, are still lower than for comparable jobs. Full-time screeners earned $34,934 on average in 2006-07, federal data show. The nation's 3 million protective-service workers, including security guards, police and corrections officers, earned $37,040 on average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An average screener supporting a family of four would be eligible for reduced-price school meals, federal eligibility guidelines show.

What do you think about how the TSA hires its staff?

EARLIERAn interesting solution to airport security lines.

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