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New figures from the Federal Salary Council show that the federal-private sector pay gap has fallen to 26.7 percent, continuing a trend of recent years in which the number decreased from 35.2 to 34.9 to 34.1 to 31.9 to 30.9 percent.

The number is the official—although controversial—measure of how federal and non-federal salaries compare, for purposes of the GS locality pay system. Under a 1990 law locality pay sufficient to close the varying gaps by metro areas was supposed to have been paid by now. That hasn’t happened for reasons including the cost and disagreements over the methods used to compare salaries.


Instead, the measures of pay gaps by city areas are used mainly to divide up the portion of an annual raise that is designated as locality pay among the areas with their own rates and a catchall “rest of the U.S.” locality for areas outside those zones (Alaska and Hawaii also have specific rates covering the entirety of those states).

For 2020, federal workers almost certainly will either receive a 2.6 percent raise paid across the board or that plus 0.5 percentage points for locality pay, yielding raises that would range from several tenths of a percentage point below 3.1 to several tenths above, varying by locality.