For feds, 2020 pay raise depends a lot on your location

Under the 2020 appropriations bills Congress and President Trump agreed to earlier this month, civilian federal employees will get raises that average 3.1% in their first paychecks of the new year.

But it’s important to remember the 3.1% figure is an average. The raises feds will actually receive in 2020 will vary a fair amount depending on where they work. According to a Federal News Network analysis of data the Office of Personnel Management published on Thursday, pay increases for General Schedule employees will range from 2.85% to 3.52%.


Congress specified an across-the-board base pay increase of 2.6% in the 2020 funding bills, but lawmakers left it up to the executive branch to distribute the remaining 0.5% of the publicly-advertised “average” across the federal government’s more than 50 locality pay areas.

Locality pay was originally meant to ensure federal workers living in a given area of the country were paid salaries that are roughly competitive with what private sector employees could expect to make for the same type of work.

But presidents of both parties — since 1994 — have used their authority to deviate from the formulas meant to ensure pay comparability, and the system has become distorted over time.

This year’s dataset shows the largest raises will go to employees in the National Capital Region. The smallest ones will go to the “Rest of the United States” group that’s meant to cover federal employees who work outside any of the designated locality areas.

The table below shows the effective pay increases federal civilian employees will actually receive, based on their locality.

Source: Office of Personnel Management