The 2018 federal pay raise was 1.4% with the 2019 federal pay raise still to be determined. The President issued a 2019 pay freeze, a move required by the end of August to avoid automatic salary increases as mandated by the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act. The President has authority under 5 U.S.C. 5304a to provide an alternative level of payment because of national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare. Factors include economic growth, unemployment, various measures of inflation and the budget deficit.
Congress can still pass a federal raise and has the authority to override the President. In fact the Senate has already passed a 1.9% federal pay raise by a 96 -2 margin. Currently, the House is working tomirror the Senate’s proposed 1.9 percent average raise — and match what federal employees received in 2018.
Under federal law, federal employees get cost-of-living raises every new year, in addition to specific increases in high-cost cities called “locality pay”, unless the president determines those raises would be “inappropriate.” The pay freeze would not be without precedent as President Obama implemented a three-year pay freeze on civilian federal works from 2011 – 2013.
Veterans in the Federal Workforce
According to the Office of Personnel Management, veterans in 2016 represented approximately one-third (31.1 percent) of the total U.S. Federal workforce, marking a five percentage point rise since the initiative was implemented in 2009. The largest agencies such as the Department of Defense, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security represent the largest number and highest percentage of veterans.
2018 General Schedule (GS) Pay Tables and Calculators
2018 General Schedule (GS) Tables
|Grade||Step 1||Step 2||Step 3||Step 4||Step 5||Step 6||Step 7||Step 8||Step 9||Step 10||WITHIN GRADE AMOUNTS|
From 2017 to 2018 the GS Pay raise was 1.4%. Effective January 2018. Data from the bipartisan Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 indicates the 2019 GS pay raise should 1.9%.
About Federal Pay (General Schedule Classification and Pay)
The General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system covers the majority of civilian white-collar Federal employees (about 2.2 million worldwide) in professional, technical, administrative, and clerical positions. GS classification standards, qualifications, pay structure, and related human resources policies (e.g., general staffing and pay administration policies) are administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on a Government wide basis. Each agency classifies its GS positions and appoints and pays its GS employees filling those positions following statutory and OPM guidelines.
The General Schedule has 15 grades–GS-1 (lowest) to GS-15 (highest). Each of the 15 pay grades has 10 step rates (steps 1-10). Movement up to the next step (known as “within-grade step increases”) is based on acceptable job performance and varying periods of longevity as follows:
- 1 year at steps 1-3
- 2 years at steps 4-6
- 3 years at steps 7-9
It normally takes 18 years to advance from step 1 to step 10 within a single GS grade if an employee remains in that single grade. However, employees with outstanding (or equivalent) performance ratings may be considered for additional, quality step increases (maximum of one per year).
In terms of salary difference, each step is worth about 3% of the federal employee’s salary.
Educational backgrounds for the grades are generally as follows:
- GS-2 positions: high school diploma and no additional experience
- GS-5 positions: college Bachelor’s degree
- GS-9 positions: Master’s degree
It is a misconception among some Federal employees and others that increases in GS rates of pay are based on prices and/or living costs. Measures of price levels, such as the BLS Consumer Price Index (CPI), are not used to set GS pay.
Locality pay are adjustments for civilian federal employees in specified occupations and geographic locations to reflect the salary levels of the private-sector workers in similar occupations in those areas.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
The Office of Personnel Management provides policy leadership and expertise on a variety of Government wide pay programs for Federal employees, including the General Schedule (GS), Law Enforcement Officer Pay Schedules, and the Federal Wage System (FWS).
Federal Pay Agencies
Not a complete list. Includes cabinet departments and large independent agencies but not mid to small sized agencies.
Cabinet Department Agencies: Agriculture, The Air Force, The Army, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), State, The Interior, The Navy, Transportation, Treasury, Veteran’s Affair
Large Independent Agencies: Agency for International Development (AID), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia, Federal Reserve System (FSR), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (SSA), Broadcasting Board of Governors, Government Printing Office (SSA), National Science Foundation (SSA), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (SSA), Securities and Exchange Commission (OFF), Small Business Administration (SBA), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Smithsonian Institution, Social Security Administration (SSA)
Federal Employees by the Numbers
- States with the most federal employees are California (250,000), Texas (200,000), Virginia (178,000) and Maryland (147,000).
- About 79 percent of all Federal employees work outside the D.C. region.
- The U.S. Postal Service employs by far the single largest segment of the civilian federal workforce but is not part of the General Schedule (GS).
- Active duty military also account for a significant portion of federal employment but they too have a different compensation structure.
- Federal civilian employees perform a broad range of tasks in more than 650 occupations.
- Federal workers are employed by more than 100 departments and agencies, 60 percent of them work at three departments in the executive branch; Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.
- Two-thirds of all federal pay goes to the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs
Difference Between COLA and Federal Pay Increases
Pay increases for current federal workers and COLA for federal workers often differ because they are based on changes in different economic variables.
Federal Pay increases are based on changes in private-sector wages and salaries. Increases in pay for federal civil service workers therefore are indexed to increases in the wages and salaries of private-sector employees. The objective of federal pay policy is to keep pay in the federal government competitive with pay in the private sector.
Cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are indexed to increases in the CPI-W (inflation measurement), which measures changes in the price of a market basket of consumer goods and services. COLA ensures that a retiree’s income will purchase the same amount of goods and services after years of retirement that it purchased at the start of retirement.
General Schedule (GS) Pay Increase History
|Money & Finance||COLA Watch|
|VA Disability Rates||Social Security|