End of the Federal Pay Freeze Announced

By on December 27, 2012 in News, Pay & Benefits

Editor’s Note: Check out the GS pay calculator updated to include the pay raise that will take effect after March 27, 2013.

As most readers know, President Obama proposed a pay freeze on civilian employee pay that was applicable all federal civilian employees. This was way back in 2010. It did not impact pay raises as a result of promotions or within-grade increases but it was good political theater and the move was supposed to save the government money which it has probably done.

The White House said at the time that the pay freeze would save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, $28 billion over the next five years, and more than $60 billion over the next 10 years. We do not know if that much has or will be saved or if it was political rhetoric in lieu of actual facts. The president noted that  action had to be taken because of “the massive deficits we inherited and the unsustainable fiscal course that we are on. Doing so will take some very tough choices.”

But, as readers know, the pay freeze is still in effect today and the deficits in the past four years have swamped previous yearly deficits by adding as much as $1.4 trillion in new debt in one year alone. The other three years of Mr. Obama’s presidency have also exceeded more than $1 trillion each year (despite the federal employee pay freeze) due primarily to increased government spending in the past several years.

But, the good news is that the pay freeze will end in late March.

The reason: A new executive order has been issued providing for a new pay schedule beginning “on the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning after March 27, 2013.” The pay raise will generally be about 1/2 of 1%.

You can check out how much your salary will be under the new pay schedules with our pay calculator on FedsDataCenter.com.

The legal authority for the new executive order is in the continuing resolution that is currently in effect. It reads, in part:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any statutory  pay adjustment (as defined in section 147(b)(2) of the Continuing  Appropriations Act, 2011 (Public Law 111–242)) otherwise scheduled to take effect during fiscal year 2013 but prior to the date  specified in section 106(3) of this joint resolution may take effect  on the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning after  the date specified in section 106(3).

No doubt, there will be many questions from federal employees in a variety of different situations in the various pay systems used by the federal government. These questions will, in most cases, be answered by the Office of Personnel Management as we get closer to implementation of the new pay rates.

For those who may also be wondering if Congress could change the pay rates or completely eliminate the pay raise, the answer is that it could be done. However, the change would have to pass both the House and the Senate and, as a practical matter, the Senate has not displayed any independence from the desires of the White House. So any change is unlikely (although not impossible) prior to the effective date.

After most readers had an extra holiday on Christmas Eve, and with the announcement of a pay raise—even a small one—many of our readers may be looking at the new year with a more positive outlook.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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  1. fedemp says:

    I am a federal employee and have noticed that there is too much of dirty politics going on. One woman gets three places to work. She has a complete office in King of Prussia, then she has a desk which she shares in Philadelphia and then she has a space in the US Attorneys Office and imagine a woman who does not even remember where her things are just blames the support staff she should not be allowed to use three different offices.

  2. bbf says:

    Retired federal employees have been included in the pay freeze also…and believe me..WE ARE NOT TAKING HOME ANYTHING LIKE $85,000!!  The proposed Obama pay increase of 1% is another insult by the present administration. I hope that federal employees will remember the way federal employees have been treated under this administration.  As a former resident of Maryland..who worked very hard to get one of the very few female Senators elected..I am especially disappointed in her betrayal of her constituents. 

  3. Michael says:

    please learn the difference between the debt and the deficit. Of course the debt has increased especially since the two wars were actually put on the books but as far as the deficit is concerned it has been decreased by more than a quarter. This has been the fastest decrease in the deficit in generations. The debt is a completely different matter. The problem is the deficit. We cannot address the debt until the deficit is taken care of and it is being taken care of.

  4. Guess says:

    I’m soo confused with ALL’ this political stuff, all I know is I need my raise!

  5. Fedredhead52 says:

    I concur with Lee Lucas. This pay “raise” is a total slap in the face to the majority of Federal employees who DON’T make anywhere near $85,000 like me.  I will get about $200 per year, but that will get eaten up (and then some) by increases in taxes or insurance premiums. It seems that on every comment section concerning Federal employee pay, there’s always some misguided beings (mostly not in the federal workforce) who cry and moan about how overpaid we are. They forget to factor in the SES employees and those whose salaries ruin the curve. Why is it that Federal employees have become the whipping boys for the fiscal mess we find ourselves in? Just remember this when you try to get a question answered by Social Security or IRS and have to wait on hold because there are not enough people to help you. Or wait in line at one of our national parks or wildlife refuges because there are not enough people to meet the demands of the public.  I would love to see a mass demonstration on the mall in DC by Federal employees tired of putting up with this bashing by Congress and the American public who don’t appreciate what the federal workforce does for them.

  6. Prynl3 says:

    Maybe the pay freeze was to generate enough money to pay for inauguration expenses such as repaving Pennsylvania Ave.  and building the heated shelters for the VIPs.  The $800,000 GSA scandal was frowned upon heavily but millions have been spent for a one-day event.  Most monetary incentives have deceased in addition to the pay freeze. Performance awards have shrunk to practically nothing compared to what was given for the same Level last year.

  7. Rambling Rose says:

    “…political theater” is exactly what the “freeze” was, since pretty much everyone gets a within grade pay raise,  and if not an even bigger step promotion; oh, and let’s not forget cash bonuses for outstanding work.  But hey, we’ll take the 1/2 to 1% increase on top of all that too! 

  8. Philalethes says:

    I don’t think you are correct that a piece of legislation can be the authority for an executive order.  I’m thinking that the Consitution is the source of executive power.  As for all this talk about federal employees, I am disheartened that so many people fall for it.  It’s just turning the middle class against the middle class.  We’re so busy burning down our own houses that we don’t look at the issue of extremely wealthy people availing themselves of tax credits and deductions that people who actually need most of their pay checks to pay the bills can’t take advantage of.  P.S.  Do you all remember the Congressional Budget Office report on the salaries of federal employees that started all the fed bashing?  It stated that federal employees with professional degrees or doctorates make 18% LESS than their counterparts in the private sector.   Whatever you make of that, it can’t be that every federal employee is overpaid.

  9. notsobigspender says:

    Oh, Lee Lucas, you’re doing better than I am but not by much.  I haven’t gotten a pay raise for nearly 15 years (the boss doesn’t like me so he froze my pay).  So I froze my work 🙂

    If what Labor Attorney says is right, than I’m REALLY behind the 8-ball!

  10. bluebonnet114 says:

    85,000 is a joke……the joke is that management gets whatever they want, all bonuses and raises and the regular employee does not.   People can apply with the government just like any other employer, maybe they will be hired, maybe not, just like the real wourld!  Reality please.   If you agree to work under a set of rules, you should continue and this goes for Washington DC.    GS 5 employees do not make $85,000.   Contracting out costs more than paying a reglar non-management worker.    Management gets their bonuses no matter what.   Regular workers did not overspend the taxpayers money, congress did, yet they give themselves raises.   Government workers are regular people and have mortgages, children to raise, etc. yet if you don’t work for what you get (welfare conditions) you still get paid and do not have to worry about a job.

  11. ja a says:

    government workers did NOT cause the overspending by Congress!  We agreed to work under the set of rules laid out to us by management.  However, management and the Bargaining Unit employees (BUE)i.e. regular non management employees do not have the same set of rules.   Regular BUE non-management do not get pay raises, but management does, just like congress.  WHY?  Why should management get raises when BUE non-management do not?  Why should congress get raises when they cannot balance the budget????   I am confused here, just like all Americans.   You get a raise and you do lousy work?   The federal employees (BUE) did not spend the budget money or tax monies, congress did.   Punish them.   This must be part of the big plan to through our country into socialism?

  12. Stellasasha says:

    “The president noted that  action had to be taken because of “the massive deficits we inherited and the unsustainable fiscal course that we are on. Doing so will take some very tough choices.”

    Mr. President, I’d say to you that 7 million +  vacations to Hawaii for you and your family  should be scaled back to Camp David.  This is a tough choice, for you, I’ve come to understand, but you should be leading BY EXAMPLE!  And the “inherited” mess?  Isn’t it time for you and your Admimistration to start taking responsibility and come up with a plan to quit the outrageous SPENDING? That 16T deficit is very serious, Mr. President, just in case you don’t get it.

  13. T. says:

    The president noted that  action had to be taken because of “the massive deficits we inherited and the unsustainable fiscal course that we are on. Doing so will take some very tough choices.”

    Well Mr. President, do the tough choices include vacations for you and your family at Camp David instead of Hawaii, which cost us 7 million dollars this past Christmas?  Blaming Mr. Bush for everything has really gotten old, besides.  Isn’t it time for you to set a good example?  You must really think the American people are stupid.

  14. T. says:

    The president noted that  action had to be taken because of “the massive deficits we inherited and the unsustainable fiscal course that we are on. Doing so will take some very tough choices.”

    Tell that to your wife, Mr. President, for all the lavish vacations you both seem to revel in.  ARE YOU READY TO MAKE SOME TOUGH CHOICES TOO?  Give me a BREAK!  7 million dollars you just spent on your Hawaiian junket? You really do think Americans are totally dumb, is all I can figure.

  15. Judith Green says:

    This is just disgusting.  A whole 12 cents a hour wage.  Our insurance went up more than that!!!!!!  GS 9 and below do not make a whole lot of money and I feel it is wrong to give us such a terrible increase……  This is all wrong

  16. Rejoni23 says:

    I am so tired of  all of the claims that the majority of Federal employees earn $85,000 per year when in fact those of us out here on the frontline (not frontline supervisors) do not make near that much. 
    All of that aside; if a pay freeze extension would help save government jobs (the real work force not the endless money pit in the prestigious locales) then I will not whine.  What really angers me is the fact that the senate and congress are constantly bashing government spending and government debt, but they voted themselves a pay raise before they started attacking the very people who ensured they got that raise.
    Remember President Kennedy’s famous and profound words: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but Ask what you can do for your country.”  Wake up America we are not the super power we use to be.  We have become a nation of; “What’s in it for me?” 

  17. SeattleAD says:

    This “average” federal pay is so unfair to so many federal workers including myself.  I make just a tad over HALF of that average salary.  Most of us cannot and should not be compared to people making over 100k a year – come on.  I was honestly making more in the private sector until my job was eliminated.

  18. Moneyman2day says:

    and his cronies in congress must not see any problem with this so called fiscal
    cliff, since it’s ok for them to just add 11 billion dollars in wages, without
    a vote of we the villagers, taxpayers on how we feel about this with an already
    out of control over spending government!

    average governmental inflated household income is now about $63,091 per year,
    as of 2012 estimates.

    average federal employee now makes about $85,000 per year.

    feds are in the GS 5-6-7-8-9 categories and are not rolling in money. They are
    struggling to pay rent, mortgages, and medical bills, like everybody else, according to: AppleFanboy78.

    wages we’re talking about here are Preposterous if you take into account that
    our government includes all the gross pay of the federal employees with the
    non-federal employees. Labor Attorney is right! There needs to be different
    standards when figuring out these amounts. If AppleFanboy78 is sick and tired
    of hearing about the federal employees then maybe he should along with the rest
    of them attempt to LIVE WITHIN THEIR MEANS! Stop spending so much, cut back on
    keeping up with the smiths and the joneses and start putting something away for
    rainy days! It takes work to do this though! It takes work to live within your
    means and also do your job better than everyone else, especially when you are
    out earning the non-federal employee who gets more done in half a day than most
    federal employees get done in two days! You wonder why we the taxpayers are
    disgusted with the federal funnel of money to its employees! DUHH, use that
    brain you were given at birth for something more than a hat rack and collection
    site for tax dollars you really have not earned! Find a way to bridge the gap
    and help out from the top down, as we are struggling to get to where you are,
    instead of doing relatively nothing, and out earning us who are working and
    trying to survive to pay your wages!

  19. Caseyp1122 says:

    Completely disingenuous to make it sound like Mr.Obama has single handedly increased the deficit by $1.4 trillion in a single year when we all know the cost of BOTH wars that weren’t started under his presidency are calculated into that $1.4 trillion. I’m sure it sounds much sexier to just say $1.4 trillion when bashing Obama without qualifying it with facts. 

  20. OldSalt says:

    Be nice if it were retroactive back to Jan. 1st.  Yeah, right!

  21. Dorene Duris says:

    Why oh why are there any raises considered at this time; the money is not there to be used for such at this time.  Each one of the individuals should ask the President to wait until the country is more stable before anyone receives a raise.  There are those in the country that have next to nothing and you people have enough right now.  Please show the President that you are thinking of all Americans.

  22. Ron Alford says:

    Judgement day is coming.

  23. CrazySpirit says:

    I don’t know what happened to my last post!! But what I was saying was the Government,as of the Rep.and Senators and above shouldn’t get a raise unless we the people vote on it as to how much and when.Raises just like Taxes should be done FAIRLY from the White House on down.The White House should estimate their Raise just like they do Social Security recipients. Congress always vote themselves a Raise well that should change,we the people should be saying if they get a raise or not and how much,that is a Fair way of doing it.

  24. CrazySpirit says:

    I don’t believe our Government,like Representatives,Senators,or anyone at the White House should not get a raise,,they’ve gotten raises regardless if anyone else has.They vote their own raises,it shouldn’t be,we the people should have a say in if they get a raise or not.The people should be the ones voting on their raise or not.As far civil service people go,their raise should be figured just like Social Security raises go.Taxes and raises should be done fairly to all,no richman’s cuts,the same across the board,from the White House down.FAIRLY.And Congress shouldn’t be allowed to Vote their RAISES either.

  25. $15300432 says:

    Yoo hoo another attendance raise. No where in the private sector does the work force get a raise just for showing up…what a great country

    • patwilliams77 says:

       Yoo hoo a raise!
      I feel your pain onedumbsnivelingwong.  Did your
      employer CATO give you a Christmas bonus for blogging propaganda
      comments during the holidays?  What a real trooper!

  26. Aviator_Guy says:

    Gas Prices have Doubled over the last four years here in Los Angeles!!!  I will take an extra .05 pay raise 🙂

  27. Aviator_Guy says:

    I’ve got 34 years of Military / Fed service and I would appreciate a 2013 pay raise of only .5% in late March.  Since they put the freeze on Federal Pay a couple years ago, Food Prices have gone way up and Gasoline has more than Doubled over the last four years here in Los Angeles!!!

  28. DEWEYFRADY says:

    So sad this President doesn’t even realize the fix that Amreica is in.It’s really sad that there are so many people who don’t have this kind of monie’s to be giving all the Federal employee’s a pay raise. What is it going to take to open the eyes of this President?Aren’t we in a bad situation right now and there’s a deficit here in America.So much waste in Government at your and my expence,but do you really think that President Obama care’s?.Do the American people really think this man is out to help better the life style’s of all the American people ?Then every one need’s to get your head’s out of the sand and wake up .The rich are getting richer and the poor are barely making it. Time to sit this man down and talk to him no matter who he may think he is he need’s to be held accountable for all of his action’s.And the other’s in Washington need to stand up and be counted it’s time to quit spending what we don’t have,I don’t go out and spend spend spend I don’t have any kind of fund’s available to me that I can do this kind of income and I can’t spend what I don’t money that I do not have.So why doe’s the President do all these rediculious thing’s?You tell me America need’s help in the worst way,more than anything else we need God to help those in Washington wisdom and knowledge to understand people are so very tired of all these deal’s.JUST SAYIN. 

    • Caseyp1122 says:

      If you think Mr.Obama is the sole problem then clearly you have no idea how government works and I suggest you go back to 8th grade civics class.

  29. derekcrane says:

    Why raise the salaries of these hacks?  I doubt that many federal workers quit during the pay freeze.

  30. Thundergod says:

    Waa!  Boo! Hoo!
    All the sniveling crybabies (ie….Business owners who pay their employees low wages and paid posters from republican thinktanks) will be hitting the comments about this story.   I feel all your pains….NOT.