OPM’s backlog of requests dips below the 20,000 mark for the first time since 2017.
The annual new year’s surge of federal employees filing for retirement benefits appears to be over, as the number of new claims fell in March, allowing officials to make progress in clearing the agency’s backlog.
Last month, the Office of Personnel Management received 7,767 retirement claims, down from 13,290 in February. Unlike the previous month, which saw an abnormally high number of new claims, March’s numbers fell in line with those of previous years. In March 2017, OPM saw 7,216 new claims.
The slower pace allowed the agency to make significant progress on its backlog. OPM processed 13,262 requests last month, up from 9,532 in February. That brought the backlog below 20,000 for the first time since last December.
By the end of March, the backlog, which is considered to be at a “steady state” at 13,000, fell to 18,730, down from 24,225 the previous month. It is also lower than a year ago, when it sat at 20,530, in part because of President Trump’s temporary hiring freeze.
Although on a monthly basis, the average processing time for a new retirement claim rose from 46 days in February to 49 last month, the average based on the fiscal year fell to 57 days, down from 59 in February.