An early marker has been set for the January 2019 (not 2018) general schedule pay raise, as the Labor Department has reported the employment cost index measure used for determining the across-the-board component of that raise under federal pay law.

Under that law, the 12-month ECI figure ending each September–a measure of growth in wages, not inflation–is supposed to be used in setting the across the board portion in the White House’s subsequent budget proposal for the following fiscal year. A half percentage point is to be shaved off that amount and locality pay is supposed to be paid in addition, varying by locality. The unreduced figure for the measuring period was 2.6 percent, meaning an indicated across the board raise of 1.9 percent for January 2019, in this case.

That system never has worked as designed, however, and in many years the reduced ECI figure alone has become the total raise with locality pay carved out of it. That appears to be the most likely outcome regarding the January 2018 raise, for which the reduced ECI figure also came to 1.9 percent. If Congress does not act otherwise–and there has been no indication that it will–that amount will be paid by default, with 1.4 percent paid across the board and the remainder divided up as variable locality pay on top.