Biden makes 2022 federal pay raise official for civilian employees

This story was updated on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2022 at 9:30 p.m. with the General Schedule pay tables from the Office of Personnel Management. It was updated again at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 23 with additional information on Executive Schedule pay. 

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order making federal pay raises official for many civilian employees in 2022.

As expected, General Schedule employees will receive an across-the-board federal pay raise of 2.2% in 2022, plus an additional 0.5% locality pay adjustment, to total a 2.7% average increase.

The raises take effect Jan. 1, or more specifically during the first pay period in January.

Biden announced plans back in August to give civilian employees a 2.7% average federal pay raise for 2022. Wednesday’s order was the last step the president must take to finalize pay adjustments of any kind for General Schedule employees.

Congress has, on a few occasions in recent years, broken away from the president’s plan and included its own federal pay raise proposal for civilian employees in an omnibus spending package at the end of the calendar year. But Congress hasn’t passed any spending bills for 2022 yet, and House and Senate Democrats indicated they would support Biden’s planned 2.7% federal pay raise even if they had managed to finish their appropriations work this year.

A 2.7% average federal pay raise is well above the 1% bump civilian employees received in 2021, but it falls below the 3.1% increase employees got back in 2020.

Again, a 2.7% federal pay raise is an average. Some civilian employees, depending on where in the country they work, may receive slightly more based on their locality pay area, while some may technically see a slightly lower figure.

Those differences may seem especially noticeable this time after the Trump administration froze locality pay adjustments for 2021.

For example, General Schedule employees in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. metropolitan area will see a total raise of 3.02%, while employees in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Florida will see pay increases of 2.44% in 2022.

Federal employees in the Seattle/Tacoma, Washington, locality pay area will see the highest raises. Their 2022 pay increase totals 3.21%, according to OPM.

For the first time in 2022, federal employees in Des Moines, Iowa, will receive their own unique locality pay rate. The president’s pay agent formally approved Des Moines as its own locality pay area back in 2020. But because the Trump administration didn’t adjust locality pay rates for 2021, the General Schedule employees in Des Moines earned “rest of U.S.” locality pay for another year.

Find the full set of pay tables for General Schedule employees from the Office of Personnel Management here.

Per the 2021 omnibus spending bill, a pay freeze remains in place for senior political appointees and the vice president through at least Feb. 18, the date at which point the current continuing resolution will expire. Depending on what legislation Congress passes in February, the pay freeze may continue for another year, as has been customary in recent years.

Specifically, the pay freeze covers employees serving in an Executive Schedule position, a political appointment or a chief of mission or ambassador-at-large.

The pay freeze doesn’t cover General Schedule employees, including Schedule C employees within that system, Foreign Service employees, and career members of the Senior Executive Service who have chosen to retain SES basic pay. (Find SES basic pay rates for 2022 here.)

Pay for freeze-covered Executive Schedule employees and those paid at an EX rate by law range from $148,500 to $203,500, according to OPM.

The vice president will again earn a salary of $235,100 in 2022, according to OPM guidance.

Congress has frozen pay for political appointees at least since 2014, when lawmakers included a provision holding pay rates at 2013 levels in a 2014 omnibus. The provision detailing the pay freeze has become practically standard appropriations language since then, and it has appeared in subsequent spending bills and continuing resolutions for the past several years.

OPM continues to adjust Executive Schedule pay rates in accordance with the 2.2% across-the-board raise, again, because not all employees are covered by a pay freeze intended for senior political appointees.

Notably, employees at GS-15 — and even GS-14 in some locality pay areas — whose salaries have been maxed out at the Executive Schedule IX rate will receive $176,300 in 2022, a total that reflects the 2.2% across-the-board increase for 2022.

Find the official Executive Schedule pay rates for 2022 here.

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