Where Do You Rank On the Laggers List?

By Mike Causey

In the world of federal pay, as in real estate, three things count: Location, location and location.

The salaries that federal white collar folks get , for doing whatever they do, vary from city-to-city. That’s called the locality pay system which was setup in 1990 (the so-called FEPCA law) and first used in 1993. It was designed to lets feds catchup with the private sector—to close or narrow the so-called pay gap. It replaced the one-salary-fits-all system used for most federal workers up until then.

Feds in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico the the Virgin Islands got (and still get) cost of living pay differentials. Workers in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco also got extra pay for being where they were. But for most feds, up until FEPCA came along, a GS 11 was paid the same salary whether he/she worked in Boston, Butte or Biloxi.

With the advent of locality pay, things changed. Now workers in New York City, LA and San Franciso are at the top of the pay heap. And feds in Dallas make more than their GS Dopplegangers in Washington-Baltimore. Some years G-men and women in Buffalo and Raleigh-Durham get bigger raises than those in Chicago or Seattle.

After more than a decade of locality pay raises after roughly 14 years under a locality pay system (skewed by both Presidents Clinton and Bush) feds—by the government’s own yardstick—are paid less than their counterparts in most cities for most jobs. So which feds are the furthest behind? Take this test and rank the cities (with 1 being the worst) where feds are the most underpaid compared to their private sector counterparts. The cities are:

New York City, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Huntsville, Washington-Baltimore, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia-Camden, Phoenix, Dayton, Buffalo, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin, Norfolk, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Sacramento, Portland, Milwaukee, Cleveland, etc. Rank them in order of which cities you think lag the most behind hometown private sector pay.

Once you’ve made your picks—or suckered a coworker into doing it—check out the following. It shows the percentage pay raise the government says it would take to fully comply with the federal pay law (FEPCA’s) formula:

San Francisco area (31.49 percent)…Houston (27.02 percent)…New York City (25.46 percent)…Los Angeles (24.64 percent)…Hartford (23.20 percent)…Chicago (22.47 percent)…Boston (21.74 percent)…Detroit (22.03 percent)…San Diego (21.17 percent)…Denver (20.52 percent) Washington-Baltimore (19.73 percent)…Sacramento (19.62 perccent)…Philadelphia (19.49 percent)… Seattle-Tacoma (19.16 percent)…Minneapolis-St. Paul (18.80 percent)…Miami (18.70 percent)…Portland (18.17 percent…Dallas-Ft. Worth (18.04 percent)…Atlanta (16.59 percent…Cleveland (16.53 percent)…Raleigh-Durham (16.50 percent)…Milwaukee (16.13 percent)…Richmond (14.900)…Dayton (14.76 percent)…Pittsburgh (14.54 percent)…Phoenix (13.98)…Huntsville (13.92 percent)…Indianapolis (13.25 percent)…and for feds who work in RUS (cities outside the locality pay loop) the raise they SHOULD be getting (but won’t be getting) in January works out to 12.91 percent.

Reality Check

Despite what you should be getting, according to the FEPCA rules, you will be getting less. The amount depends on whether Congress which has tentatively but not finally approved a 3.5 percent raise gets its act togather. If it doesn’t, the President’s 3 percent proposal will prevail. Under the locality formula that will mean different raises for different cities. Under the President’s plan, including a locality pay adjustment, feds in Washington-Baltimore would get an estimated 3.49 percent raise while those in LA would get 3 percent and Richmond, Va., based workers would get just under 3 percent. Bear in mind the raises do NOT reflect local cost of living conditions. Instead they are based on Bureau of Labor Statics data which compared the pay (not fringe benefits) of major private sector employers in each city to the salaries of federal employees doing similar work.

Past Performance

For a look at how the locality pay system has worked in the past—when both the President and/or Congress called the shots, click here.

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.