Computing Your 2009 Pay Rate

What will your paycheck look like in 2009? It looks like the 3.9% average pay raise for federal GS employees may eventually be approved.

As the usual scenario for determining next year’s pay raise for federal employees trudges along its usual route, it now appears there is a chance that the average pay raise for general schedule employees in 2009 may end up at 3.9%. A lot can happen between now and next January, particularly during an election year, so any prediction about the final approved rate is still a guess.

With the approval of the 3.9% rate by the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, and the 3.9% rate also likely to be approved for military personnel, a reasonable person could infer that 3.9% is likely to be the amount that eventually gets the nod of approval from Congress and the White House.

When the pay raise is finally implemented, we always get questions from readers along the lines of: “How come I didn’t get the 3.9% pay raise I was supposed to get?”

The answer is because of locality pay. Some federal employees will get quite a bit more than the 3.9% and others will get less. The 3.9% pay raise (or whatever amount is finally approved) is just an average figure. The reality is that there will be a base pay rate of something like 2.9% and a locality pay rate will be added on top of that. The Office of Personnel Management will make a determination about locality pay rates and their decisions will impact your final pay rate. Chances are that federal employees in large metropolitan areas like New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC will end up with a raise that is closer to 5%. Check out the article on “How Come I Didn’t Get the 3.5% Raise I was Supposed to Get” to see how the raise played out in 2008.

Don’t spend the money from your next year’s pay raise. The final amount you receive is unknown as of this writing and may end up being considerably different when all is said and done.

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. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47