Once again in 2022, your actual federal pay raise depends a lot on where you work

As expected, President Joe Biden finalized a 2.7% average federal pay raise for many civilian employees for 2022.

But it’s worth repeating: That 2.7% figure is an average. The raises federal employees will actually receive depend a lot on where they work, all thanks to locality pay.

For 2022, federal pay raises for General Schedule employees will range from 2.42% to 3.21%, according to a Federal News Network analysis of data from the Office of Personnel Management.

Why? It’s complicated.

The president authorized a 2.2% across-the-board federal pay raise to all General Schedule employees next year, plus an additional 0.5% in locality adjustments. It’s up to the executive branch to distribute that total across the 54 distinct locality pay areas, and it means federal employees in some regions will make more than the “advertised” 2.7% raise, while some will make less.

Locality pay stems from the  Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA). Lawmakers originally designed it to ensure federal employees living in specific parts of the country were paid salaries that are roughly competitive with what private sector employees doing similar kinds of work might earn.

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 in multiple ways over time.

Past administrations from both parties have also doubted the methodology used to compare federal pay with salaries for comparable work in the private sector.

Next year, federal employees in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, by far, will receive the highest raises out of anyone. Their raises will total 3.21%, according to OPM.

In the national capital region, federal employees will see raises of 3.02% in 2022.

Federal employees in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, California, another high cost-of-living area, will see raises of 3.14% next year.

General Schedule employees in the “rest of the United States,” the group that covers federal workers outside of the other 53 distinct locality pay areas, will see the lowest raises.

The table below shows the federal pay raises General Schedule employees will actually receive based on their locality area.

(Source: Office of Personnel Management)

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