Flatlining feds: More top workers hit pay ceiling

Thousands of long-time, top career feds in a dozen hits won’t be getting the January pay raise that will go to most other white collar, non-postal employees. For some, in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C., it will be the second or third raise they’ve missed because they hit the career $164,200 pay cap.

In many cases, the beached employees will actually see their take-home pay reduced because of higher health insurance premiums.

In the LA-Long Beach area, the $164,200 pay ceiling now extend down to the seventh step of that GS grade. That also applies to top feds in the Houston-Woodlands locality pay area.

The pay ceiling prevents any pay raise for GS 15 feds in the Hartford locality pay area, where the $164,200 limit is in the eighth pay step. Workers in Denver-Aurora and Detroit, Dallas-Fort Worth hit the limit at steps 9 and 10. The pay cap also prevents raises at the top steps of GS 15 in Denver, Washington, D.C.,Chicago. The cap extends down to workers in Steps 8, 9 and 10 in Boston_Worcester-Providence.

In San Francisco-Oakland, one of the top-paying zones in the U.S., the cap covers all workers in Steps 5 through 10. In Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, it covers those in steps 9 and 10 of their grades. The cap in LA blocks raises for anyone in steps 7 through 10 of GS 15.

Unless the pay cap is raised in time for the next raise, feds in Cleveland who are at step 10 ($164,100) will hit it next year. That’s true for workers in dozens of other locality pay raises.

The issue of whether federal workers are paid too much, or not enough, rages each year. Conservative think tanks said feds are overpaid compared to their counterparts in the private sector. Especially when including the value of fringe benefits like the 401(k) plan, vacations, sick leave and a defined benefit retire plan. Critics say that Uncle Sam doesn’t do retail and that it is silly to compare a top CIA analyst with a greeter in Walmart.

While there is no recent evidence that the pay cap  pushed qualified feds out of government, the New York Times recently cited a major turnover problem at the National Security Agency. It said that many of the code-breaking agency’s best and brightest are leaving for jobs with contractors where the pay is better and where their experience, contacts, insider knowledge, top security clearances and federal health benefits make them golden catches.

To see where you stand in the city-by-city pay lineup, click here.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

The earliest use in print of the phrase “glass ceiling” to describe an invisible barrier to advancement occurs in an article by Nora Frenkiel in the March 1984 issue of Magazine World.

Source: Phrases.org

Related Stories

    Better understand locality pay: how it works and what it means for your salary

    Read more
    AP/David GoldmanFILE - In this June 6, 2015, file photo, a customer, bottom, pays for goods while shopping at the Atlanta Farmers Market in Atlanta. Americans finally got a raise in 2015 after seven years of stagnating incomes, driven by big gains among the poorest households, according to information provided by the Census Bureau, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Higher minimum wages in many states and tougher competition among businesses to fill jobs pushed up pay, while low inflation made those paychecks stretch further. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

    Trump finalizes federal pay raise for 2018

    Read more

    Trump administration made few changes to locality pay in 2018. What happened?

    Read more


Your Turn with Mike Causey


Learn about everything from pay, benefits and retirement, to buyouts, COLAs and pay freezes. Call the show live Wednesdays from 10-11 a.m. at 202-465-3080 with your questions. Dial 605-562-0264 to listen live from any phone. Follow Mike on Twitter and send him an email with your questions and comments. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Podcast One.

Sign up for breaking news alerts


Oct 20, 2021 Close Change YTD*
L Income 23.2998 0.0193 3.52%
L 2025 12.1025 0.0192 6.40%
L 2030 42.9366 0.0928 7.92%
L 2035 12.9198 0.0306 8.58%
L 2040 48.9864 0.1261 9.26%
L 2045 13.4425 0.037 9.83%
L 2050 29.4999 0.0866 10.41%
L 2055 14.5857 0.053 12.65%
L 2060 14.5855 0.0529 12.65%
L 2065 14.5854 0.053 12.65%
G Fund 16.6861 0.0007 0.99%
F Fund 20.7869 -0.0201 -1.40%
C Fund 68.2821 0.2501 15.90%
S Fund 87.3318 0.3964 11.66%
I Fund 39.3785 0.1307 8.56%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at tsp.gov
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.