Assuming that federal employees receive a raise in January and that part of it as designated toward locality pay, those in the San Francisco, Washington-Baltimore and New York City areas would receive the biggest increases, according to data from the Federal Salary Council, which oversees the GS pay system.
Those three city areas already are at the top end of the locality pay system, with pay in the San Francisco area for example about 25 percent ahead of pay in the catchall “rest of the U.S.” locality, the lowest-paid.
A decision on a raise for January is still pending in a House-Senate conference, with the Senate having recommended a total 1.9 percent raise on average, split as 1.4 percent across the board and 0.5 percentage point to be divided up as locality pay. A 1.9 percent increase—split as 1.5 and 0.4, respectively—paid in January of this year resulted in raises ranging from about 1.6 to about 2.3 percent, so the 2019 range would be about the same.
Following those top three cities in order for the largest increases would be Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle-Tacoma, Houston and Boston. Just above the RUS locality for the smallest increases in ascending order would be Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Cleveland. There are 44 city localities plus RUS, with Alaska and Hawaii treated as localities in their entirety.
The Salary Council’s data assume that new localities will be effective in January in the Birmingham, Ala., Burlington, Vt., San Antonio, Virginia Beach, Va., Corpus Christi, and Omaha areas; rules still need to be finalized to create those new areas, and bring outlying counties into several of the existing localities. Affected employees—the proposed rules said there would be some 62,000 just in the first four of those areas—would get an immediate pay boost and would receive somewhat larger future raises than they would have as part of the RUS locality.
While the system applies specifically to GS employees, for years wage grade employees have received the same raises by locality even though a separate locality pay system applies to them. Congress would have to again specify that in the spending bill containing a raise, though. Employees under performance-based pay systems such as the SES do not get locality pay.
At its recent meeting, the council further recommended creating a new locality in the Des Moines, Iowa, area but that would not take effect until 2020 at the earliest.