It’s Official: Federal Employees Are Getting a Raise in 2019

February 15, 2019 3:05 PM , Updated February 25, 2019 12:20 PM
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Pink piggy bank with a smiling face behind wooden blocks that read '2019' depicting a 2019 pay raise

Despite the pay freeze that went into effect just before the start of the year, a pay raise has been implemented as part of a new spending bill just passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Congress has authorized a 1.9% pay increase in the spending bill that was passed to avoid another partial government shutdown at the end of the week. It will be retroactive to the start of 2019.

Locality Pay and Its Impact on Salaries

Note that the average increase will be 1.9%. That has happened in the past and what it means is that there is an across the board increase of 1.4% with an additional amount for locality pay adjustments. In 2017, for example, there was an across-the-board increase of 1%. Federal employees in San Francisco received 1.32% and those in the Washington, DC area received a raise of 1.26%.

In 2018, there was an average pay raise of 1.9%. Employees in the Washington, DC area received a pay raise of 2.29%. The “Rest of the U.S.” category received a raise of 1.67%.

There will be similar disparities in 2019 under the bill that was just signed into law. These will not be known for certain until OPM releases the finalized list of pay tables reflecting the new annual salaries that contain the 1.9% pay increase. We will be updating our GS pay calculator with the finalized salaries when they become available; in the meantime, the pay calculator shows you an estimate of what impact various percentage increases have on annual salaries.

Why 1.9%?

Late in 2018, the Senate included language in a bill that would have provided a 1.9% pay raise for federal employees. That was not approved by the House.

No final appropriations bill was approved in Congress late last year for the 2019 fiscal year. After the mid-term elections, the House passed a bill that would have provided a raise of 2.6% to override the pay freeze that had taken effect. This amount was based in part on providing civilian employees the same percentage increase as military personnel. Companion legislation for a 2.6% pay raise was introduced in the Senate. It was unlikely that these bills would have made it out of Congress and become law.

Congress ultimately reverted back to the 1.9% figure that had been approved by the Senate previously, probably because lawmakers pushing for the pay raise for federal employees felt it had a better chance of getting approved.

Whatever the reasoning, the tactic of putting the pay raise into a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown worked, and federal employees will now be getting a raise for all of 2019.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.