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An early marker has been set for the January 2022 (not 2021) federal employee pay raise, as the Labor Department has reported the employment cost index measure used under federal pay law.

Under that law, the ECI figure—a measure of growth in wages, not living costs—for the 12 months through each September 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 toward January 2022 was 2.7 percent.


That formula has not been followed in practice, though, due to the potential cost of the indicated locality raises and disagreements over the calculations underlying those figures. In some years the ECI number has played little to no role in a determination of a raise while in others the full or reduced ECI number alone has become the total raise, with locality pay sometimes carved out of it.

For 2021, the comparable figure was 3 percent, which is the amount that President Trump recommended for military personnel—a raise they are in line to receive under pending budget measures—while just 1 percent for federal employees. That 1 percent will be paid by default unless Congress enacts a different figure by the end of the year; so far it has taken no steps toward doing so.

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