Social Security vs. Federal Employees: Cumulative Pay Increases

Over the years, Social Security retirees have seen their payments rise more than the salaries of Federal employees. Correct? In 2011, both feds and Social Security retirees received no increase, but in 2012, Social Security payments went up 3.6% and in 2013 their increase was 1.7%; while the comparable figures for feds were -0-% and -0-%-. In this three-year period, Social Security recipients are definitely ahead of feds.

However, if you look at the cumulative raises for all years since 1999, the story is different:

Year Employee Increase* Salary** Social Security Increase Benefit
1999 3.68% $52,049 1.3% $1,000
2000 4.94% 54,618 2.4% 1,024
2001 3.81% 56,699 3.5% 1,060
2002 4.77% 59,407 2.6% 1,087
2003 4.27% 61,942 1.4% 1,131
2004 4.42% 64,680 2.1% 1,155
2005 3.71% 67,077 2.7% 1,186
2006 3.44% 69,384 4.1% 1,234
2007 2.64% 71,219 3.3% 1,275
2008 4.49% 74,416 2.3% 1,304
2009 4.78% 77,973 5.8% 1,380
2010 2.42% 79,864 0.0% 1,380
2011 0.0% 79,864 0.0% 1,380
2012 0.0% 79,864 3.6% 1,430
2013 0.0% 79,864 + 53.4% 1.7% 1,454 + 45.4%

Cumulatively, over a 14-year time span, Social Security recipients gained 45.4% while Federal employees’ salaries (in Washington, D.C. ) increased 53.4%.

Above is for Federal employees in the Washington, D.C. area. How much did the GS-12/3 salary increase in other localities?

Locality 1999 2013 Cumulative Increase (%)
Indianapolis $51,186 $73,730 44.0
Dayton 51,470 74,733 45.2
Columbus 51,852 75,325 45.3
Pittsburgh 51,475 74,817 45.3
Huntsville 51,297 74,592 45.4 = Social Security
Richmond 51,441 74,881 45.6
Cincinnati 52,262 76,218 45.8
Milwaukee 51,504 75,929 47.4
Cleveland 51,591 76,302 47.9
Miami – Ft. Lauderdale 52,358 77,658 48.3
Portland 52,016 77,375 48.8
Atlanta 51,470 76,694 49.0
Minneapolis – St. Paul 52,074 77,768 49.3
Denver 52,672 78,771 49.5
Dallas 51,856 77,581 49.6
Philadelphia 52,257 78,301 49.8
Detroit 53,140 79,780 50.1
Seattle-Tacoma 52,093 78,314 50.3
Sacramento 52,242 78,565 50.4
Chicago 53,068 80,429 51.6
Houston 54,486 82,750 51.9
San Diego 52,411 79,844 52.3
Los Angeles 53,627 81,754 52.4
Hartford 53,005 80,892 52.6
Boston 52,479 80,236 52.9
Washington, D.C. 52,049 79,864 53.4
New York 53,343 82,757 55.1
San Francisco 54,554 86,891 59.3

Why are the increases different? The annual increase for Social Security is calculated using a predetermined process set by public law, a process that uses objective, known factors such as the CPI (Consumer Price Index). In contrast, for Federal employees, the pay raise each year is political – that is, the White House decides how much the general and locality increases will be, with limited review by Congress.

My website for calculation of Federal benefits is here

References:

http://archive.opm.gov/oca/12tables/index.asp
http://www.ssa.gov

*  includes both general increase and locality increase for Washington, D.C.

** GS-12 step 3

© 2016 Robert F. Benson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robert F. Benson.

About the Author

Robert Benson served 35 years in various Federal agencies, as both a management analyst and IT specialist. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

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  1. Jethro5000 says:

    It’s all about how you want to show it and what you want to reflect.  Given these numbers, its true that Fed salaries have (in some areas) increased slightly more than Social Security benefits.  But so have average hourly wages across the board. See the following chart from the US Department of labor:
     
    The average hourly earnings of Non-supervisory employees in the US in 1990 was just above $10.00 per hour.  As of march 2013, it is $20.03 per hour.  Using simple 3rd grade math as a previous poster encourages works out to an increase of close to 100%.
     
    my chart was obtained from http://research.stlouisfed.org

  2. Japygid says:

    The correct dollar amounts are:

    1999 1000
    2000 1024
    2001 1059
    2002 1086
         2003     1102 
         2004     1124
         2005     1154
         2006     1201
         2007     1240
         2008     1268
         2009     1341
         2010      1341
         2011       1341
         2012      1389
         2013      1412.

    The corrected cumulative increase is (412/1000) = 41.2%  (as opposed to the incorrect 45.4%).

    Good catch.  Thank you.

  3. mailpouch411 says:

    Please check your math before posting Incorrect info. .SS cola is rounded down to nearest dollar.
    The 2002-2003 is WRONG. That makes All subsequent figures incorrect. When incorrect info is posted lots of folks will accept it without verification.
     YOUR percent  total  add up to 36.8%
    Looks like a “fuzzy math example”

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