The Education Department went down 11 points from 2017 to 2018.

The Education Department went down 11 points from 2017 to 2018. By Pamela Au /

The Agencies With the Biggest Gains—And Losses—in Employee Happiness

Education, Agriculture and some labor agencies' satisfaction scores plummet.

Happiness among federal employees stagnated in 2018, according to an annual survey of the government’s workforce, and although a number of agencies posted gains in worker satisfaction, several large agencies saw steep declines.

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, released by the Office of Personnel Management last week, found that the global satisfaction index, a score that measures employees’ happiness with compensation, their individual jobs and the overall organization, plateaued in 2018, remaining at 64 out of 100. Prior to this year, the government posted gains in the score for three straight years.

Although employee engagement across government rose by 1 point this year, reaching a score of 68, the survey’s response rate fell nearly 5 percentage points, despite the fact that OPM expanded eligibility to participate to all full-time federal workers.

Unlike last year, only a few agencies posted marked improvements in their global satisfaction scores in 2018 over 2017. The Energy Department had the best gain among agencies with at least 10,000 employees, growing 2 points from 68 in 2017 to 70. The best improvement across government came from the National Indian Gaming Commission, which posted a score of 88, 14 points higher than its 2017 score of 74.

The 10 agencies with at least 100 employees that saw the biggest improvement in satisfaction compared to 2017 were:

1. National Indian Gaming Commission: 14 point increase

2. Federal Maritime Commission: 8 point increase

3. Federal Election Commission: 8 point increase

4. U.S. International Trade Commission: 5 point increase

5. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: 4 point increase

6. Small Business Administration: 3 point increase

7. Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board: 3 point increase

8. National Gallery of Art: 3 point increase

9. Energy Department: 2 point increase

10: Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, Defense Agencies and Field Activities: 2 point increase

On the other end of the spectrum, several agencies posted double-digit decreases in the happiness of their workers. The steepest decline among large agencies was the Agriculture Department, which saw its global satisfaction index drop from 67 in 2017 to 61 this year, while a variety of agencies that govern labor-management relations and federal workforce issues saw employees become less happy.

The 10 agencies with at least 100 employees that saw the worst decline in satisfaction compared to 2017 were:

1. Federal Labor Relations Authority: 20 point decrease

2. Export-Import Bank: 16 point decrease

3. Education Department: 11 point decrease

4. National Labor Relations Board: 10 point decrease

5. U.S. Office of Special Counsel: 7 point decrease

6. National Endowment for the Arts: 7 point decrease

7. Agriculture Department: 6 point decrease

8. Corporation for National and Community Service: 6 point decrease

9. Environmental Protection Agency: 5 point decrease

10. Overseas Private Investment Corporation: 5 point decrease