Surprise Update to 2017 Locality Pay Rates

The president has announced a unexpected change to the previously published locality rates for 2017. Previously the locality pay increase had been set to approximately 0.6% on average. That average increase will now be raised to 1.1% for 2017 thanks to an update by President Obama.

Both congress and the president have until December 31, 2016 to make further changes.

The across-the-board pay raise will remain at 1%, bringing the combined 2017 General Schedule pay raise to 2.1%.
Read the President’s Statement.See the 2017 GS Payscale

Note: All rates have been updated to reflect the president’s revised Alternative Pay Plan

Revised: 2017 General Schedule Pay Raise and Locality Rate Increase

Revised: President’s Alternative Pay Plan

Tools: 2017 GS Pay Calculator

On November 29, 2016, President Obama issued his initial Alternative Pay Plan (now defunct) in lieu of congressional action to increase the General Schedule Pay Scale for 2017. The initial Pay Plan called for a 1.6% average pay raise for federal employees. On December 8, 2016, Congress passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act giving military personnel a 2.1% raise for 2017.
Immediately following this development on December 8th, the President issued a revised Alternative Pay Plan giving all civilian federal employees a 2.1% raise as well.

Continue reading “Revised: 2017 General Schedule Pay Raise and Locality Rate Increase”

Thirteen New Federal Locality Pay Areas for 2016

Starting in January, 2016, there will be 13 new Federal Locality Pay Areas. The announcement came on Friday, May 22, 2015, as Beth Colbert, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, addressed members of the Federal Employee Union.
More: How is GS Pay Calculated
This announcement means a larger locality adjustment for employees on the General Service (GS) and the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) pay scales in one of these cities.
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The 13 cities are:

As of 2015, locality adjustments are as high was 35% in San Fransisco and 24% in Washington D.C. Employees who do not work within an established Locality receive a 14.1% adjustment. Although the new locality rates have not yet been announced, employees in these cities stand to receive as much as a 10% raise starting in 2016.
A 2013 studies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that employees in these 13 pay areas were paid significantly less than their non-federal counterpart. The President’s Pay Agent and the Federal Salary Council began recommending increasing the locality rate in these 13 cities later that year. The new locality areas will help to reduce this pay disparity starting in 2016.
The current Federal Locality Adjust Rates can be found here:

2017 Proposed Pay Raise

The process of deciding the Yearly Federal Employee Pay Raise is complicated. Click here to read about how how General Schedule pay raises are decided.

How Pay Raises are Decided

The process starts with a recommendation by the President’s Pay Agent. The recommendation is then transmitted to the president who either accepts the recommendation or makes the an Alternative Pay Plan. The President’s Alternative Pay Plan and the President’s Pay Agent’s Pay Plan are sent to congress.

Congress then has the final say in deciding the yearly pay raise. Congress can pass legislation that sets the raise amount or Congress can accept the president’s recommendation by not passing any relevant legislation.

1.6% Pay Raise Proposed for 2017

As of July 28, 2016, the administration has recommended a across the board 1.6% pay raise for federal employees under the GS, LEO, FWS and SES pay scales.

At this point, Congress is not moving to pass legislation that would differ from the president’s recommendation of a 1.6% raise. Congress has until the end of the year to act to overrule the president’s recommendation, but it appears unlikely.

Largest Pay Raise Since 2009

Federal employees have seen only meager pay raises over the last six years. View the full pay raise history here. If the 1.6% pay raise goes into effect as predicted, this will be largest pay raise since 2009 when federal employees saw a 2.9% raise across the board. From 2011 to 2013, pay raises were completely frozen, and federal employees have received only a 1% raise each of the last 3 years.

Federal Employees Get Half-Day on Christmas Eve 2016

President Obama issued an executive order on Friday, December 11, 2015 giving all Federal Government employees a half-day on Thursday, December 24, 2015, the day before Christmas. Federal employees obviously have off on Christmas Day because it is a Federal Holiday.
More: View All Federal Holidays.

In the past, the president has authorized a full day off on the day before Christmas. This year, likely due to budget constraints and the high workload of many federal employees, only a half-day is authorized.

The order states typical limitations, such as individual agencies may choose to ignore the order at their own discretion for reasons of “national security, defense, or other public need.”
The half-day is welcome even as many federal employees had hoped for a full-day off. However, in addition to the 2016 1.3% General Schedule raise, federal employees in a good position.
View the December 24, 2015 Holiday Executive Order.

2016 GS Pay Raise

The President’s Pay Agent has released the 2016 General Schedule Pay Rates and they are now available on There is an average raise of 1.3% for all federal white collar employees on the GS pay schedule. There is a 1% across-the-board raise that applies for all GS employees. Locality rates have also been raised in many locations, including 13 new locality areas.

The new pay rates will go into effect on the first day of the first full pay period in 2016. January 1st is the middle of a pay period so the new pay rates will not go into effect until January 8, 2016.
More: View 2016 Locality Rates
President Obama announced the 1% across the board raise on Augest 28, 2015 in a letter to the Speaker of the House. The official federal locality rates were published later on November 30, 2015 in a letter to congress.

The pay raise is below the average pay increase seen by the private sector last year. This means that the pay gap between government workers and private sector will continue to expand in 2016. In fact, President Obama conceded that the pay increase is below the pay increase seen in the private sector.

In January 2014 and again in January 2015, increases for civilian Federal employees were limited to a 1.0 percent overall pay increase, an amount lower than the private sector pay increases and statutory formula for adjustments to the base General Schedule for 2014 and 2015.

Presedent Obama on November 30, 2015 in a letter to Congress
Although the 2016 pay raise is less than expected, the pay increase is welcome coming off a 3-year pay freeze that ended in 2014.
Employees in areas with the worst pay gap between private sector have seen a slightly higher than the average locality increase 0.3%. The highest raise was San Fransisco with 0.6% (not including the 1% across-the-board increase). San Fransisco was already the highest locality rate in the country.

The average locality pay increase for employees in the new locality pay areas is only 0.3% but now that official pay areas have been established, these localities will be in the running for more extensive raises in the future. The hard part of establishing a new locality pay area has been done.

In addition, all 2016 pay rates have now been incorporated into our 2016 GS pay calculator!

Why are There Two Las Vegas Locality Rates?

On January 1, 2016, 13 new Pay Locality Areas were established. These 13 Pay Locality Areas are added to the 34 existing Locality Areas. Locality Areas are established in places were the cost of living is higher than average. Federal Employees who work within one of these locality areas receive a pay adjustment to bring their salary in line with private industry averages.

These new Locality Areas will mean a significant raise for some federal employees working in these regions. These new locality areas cover major cities such as Richmond, Va; Austin, Tx; Harrisburg, Pa; and Tucson, Az.

Each locality region is given a name that includes the names of the larger cities or counties with the given Locality. Two of these longer names are:

As you will notice, both of these locality regions seem to include Las Vegas. This seeming duplication has caused many federal employees to ask “Which locality rate applies in Las Vegas?”
The answer is simple: “Depends which Las Vegas you work in” Yes, there are in fact two places called Las Vegas. The key to differentiating the two Locality Areas is to look at the State Acronyms listed in the name. The first region lists the states “NV-AZ” – Nevada and Arizona. The second region lists “NM” – New Mexico.

The well-known gambling city called Las Vegas is located in Nevada. So the “LAS VEGAS-HENDERSON, NV-AZ” area applies to the Las Vegas we have all heard of. The “ALBUQUERQUE-SANTA FE-LAS VEGAS, NM” region applies to a handful of counties in norther New Mexico.

This ambiguity could have easily been avoided. When “Las Vegas” is mentioned, everyone immediately thinks of Las Vegas, NV. Listing “Las Vegas” (the flashy gambling town, also known as Sin-City) in the “LAS VEGAS-HENDERSON, NV-AZ” Locality Area Name and “Las Vegas” (small city in New Mexico) in the “ALBUQUERQUE-SANTA FE-LAS VEGAS, NM” has only caused unneeded confusion.

Remember, just focus on the State Abbreviations at the end of the Locality Name and you should have no problem remember which is which.

2016 Federal Employee Raise

Federal Employees are slated to receive a 1-1.3% raise effective January 1, 2016. On August 28, 2015, President Obama issued a letter calling for a 1% across the board raise for federal employees. Combined with the scheduled increase to locality adjustment rates, some employees will get a combined raise of 1.3%.

The largest pay increases will be for those who live in one of the 13 new locality areas. Employees in these areas will see their locality adjustment go up several percentage points on top of the regular 1% increase. The new locality rates have not ben released yet. These 13 localities have been identified as being underpaid for years.

We will publish the official 2016 GS pay rates as they become available.