News >> Browse Articles >> Pay & Benefits


East Coast, West Coast Pay Spread

Mike Causey | Federal News Radio

January 04, 2010

When the 2010 pay raise kicks in later this month, white collar feds on the West Coast will continue to be at the top of the government’s salary totem pole.

But the gap between federal pay rates in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose-Los Angeles will narrow thanks to bigger locality adjustments for civil servants in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington-Baltimore.

Under President Obama’s original plan all white collar federal workers under the GS schedule would have gotten the same 2 percent raise. But at the last minute Congress voted to set the national pay raise at 1.5 percent and to earmark .5 for locality pay adjustments.

For the back story (as we love to say in the news biz) on that, click here.

And the results of the locality-pay add-on mean:

  • Workers in Washington-Baltimore this year will get the highest percentage pay increase of 2.42 percent. Those in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose got 2.10 percent
  • Feds in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside got a 2.02 percent total raise compared to 2.10 percent in the New York City locality pay area. It takes in parts of New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey.
  • Government workers whose cities are not within a specific geographic locality pay raise (Austin, Louisville, Salt Lake City, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Norfolk etc.) are part of the sprawling RUS (for Rest of U.S.) locality pay area. All of them got the same 1.77 percent total increase.

So what does that look like in terms of actual city-by-city salaries?

Good question . . .

Once the raises are effective (the first pay period beginning on or after January 1, 2010) workers with the IRS, Customs Service, Commerce, Agriculture and most other departments and agencies in Austin and San Antonio at the GS 9 level will have a new pay range of $47,448 to $61,678. At GS 13 the new range will be $81,823 to $106,369.

Because they are in their own locality areas, and local private sector wages are generally higher, white collar feds in Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth are paid higher salaries and will get a higher 2010 percentage pay raise.

People doing the same jobs at the same grades in San Francisco will get $56,172 to $73,019 at GS 9 and the salary range will be $96,867 to $125,926 at the GS 13 level.

Workers in the huge Washington-Baltimore locality pay area — which includes parts of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and all of Washington, D.C. — will get $51,630 to $67,114 at GS 9 and the range for GS 13 employees will be from $89,033 to $115,742.

Why the Difference?

The original federal pay law (FEPCA) promised workers a series of national raises (with everybody getting the same percentage) plus locality increases based on local private sector salaries for similar jobs. The idea was to gradually close the so-called pay "gap) between the private sector and federal salaries.

Presidents Clinton, Bush and now Obama have used an escape hatch built into the law which permits them (Congress willing) to propose lower amounts. In his first year in office President Clinton cited economic conditions as his reason for proposing a federal pay freeze. Congress overrode him (and later Bush and Obama) in proposing slightly higher raises most years.

While that has meant steady pay raises for white collar civil servants over the years, the pay “gap” has not been closed. By a long shot.

Govcentral School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use Govcentral's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.