Winners and Losers in Locality Pay Areas

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By on April 1, 2019 in Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments

Dollars floating around in the air in a city looking up towards a skyscraper depicting locality pay

The 2019 pay raise for the federal workforce is now final as of March 29, 2019. Several events impacted a number of federal employees beginning in 2019.

New Locality Pay Areas

In July 2018, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a proposal to add the following locality pay areas. These pay areas impacted about 62,000 federal employees. These proposed new locality pay areas were:

  • Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL;
  • Burlington-South Burlington, VT;
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels-Pearsall, TX; and
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC

And, in a surprise move, OPM also added two other areas in 2019: Corpus Christi, TX, and Omaha, NE to the mix of new locality pay areas. That was a surprise because the President’s Pay Agent approves or disapproves recommendations of the Salary Council. While the Salary Council recommended adding Corpus Christi and Omaha as locality pay areas, OPM took this action without a published decision by the Pay Agent.

Biggest Winner in New Locality Pay Areas

The Burlington, Vermont area was the biggest winner in the new locality pay areas with a pay increase of 2.11%.

Here is how the new pay areas fared in the 2019 pay raise lottery:

  • Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL 1.75%
  • Burlington-South Burlington, VT 2.11%
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels-Pearsall, TX 2.02%
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC 1.87%
  • Corpus Christi, TX 1.96%
  • Omaha, NE 1.84%

Locality Pay Winners for 2019

Among all of the locality pay raise areas, Washington, DC (2.27%) and San Francisco (2.18%) came out on the top of the growing list (and expanded geography of existing areas) among the locality pay areas. In 2018, when there was also an average pay raise for the federal workforce under the General Schedule of 1.9%, Washington also receive the highest locality pay increase (2.29%).

Smallest Locality Pay Raises in 2019

The Cincinnati, Ohio area received the smallest locality pay increase in 2019 with an increase of 1.69%. The Indianapolis and Cleveland areas were also in this category with an increase of 1.70% for Cleveland and 1.71% for Indianapolis.

All locality pay areas come out ahead of the “Rest of U.S.” which is always at the bottom of the list. For 2019, the rate of increase for the “Rest of the U.S.” was 1.66%.

2019 Locality Pay Raise by Locality Areas

There are now 50 locality pay areas plus separate pay rates for the States of Hawaii and Alaska. Readers often comment that the data cannot be correct as the cost of living in their area is higher than in other locality pay areas.

The reality is that cost of living is not the determining factor. Locality pay is set by comparing general schedule and non-Federal pay in each locality pay area. The data are based on salary surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All employees not in a locality pay area in the contiguous 48 States are included in the “Rest of U.S.” locality pay area. BLS conducts a number of small-scale surveys in the RUS area and combines the results for setting the RUS locality pay rate.

  • ALBANY-SCHENECTADY, NY-MA: 2%
  • ALBUQUERQUE-SANTA FE-LAS VEGAS, NM: 1.79%
  • ATLANTA–ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY–SANDY SPRINGS, GA-AL: 1.8%
  • AUSTIN-ROUND ROCK, TX 2.05%
  • BIRMINGHAM-HOOVER-TALLADEGA, AL 1.75%
  • BOSTON-WORCESTER-PROVIDENCE, MA-RI-NH-ME 2.03%
  • BUFFALO-CHEEKTOWAGA, NY 1.82%
  • BURLINGTON-SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT 2.11%
  • CHARLOTTE-CONCORD, NC-SC 1.91%
  • CHICAGO-NAPERVILLE, IL-IN-WI 1.86%
  • CINCINNATI-WILMINGTON-MAYSVILLE, OH-KY-IN 1.69%
  • CLEVELAND-AKRON-CANTON, OH 1.71%
  • COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 1.92%
  • COLUMBUS-MARION-ZANESVILLE, OH 1.83%
  • CORPUS CHRISTI-KINGSVILLE-ALICE, TX 1.96%
  • DALLAS-FORT WORTH, TX-OK 2.07%
  • DAVENPORT-MOLINE, IA-IL 1.76%
  • DAYTON-SPRINGFIELD-SIDNEY, OH 1.83%
  • DENVER-AURORA, CO 2.07%
  • DETROIT-WARREN-ANN ARBOR, MI 1.85%
  • HARRISBURG-LEBANON, PA 1.84%
  • HARTFORD-WEST HARTFORD, CT-MA 1.92%
  • HOUSTON-THE WOODLANDS, TX 2.02%
  • HUNTSVILLE-DECATUR-ALBERTVILLE, AL 1.99%
  • INDIANAPOLIS-CARMEL-MUNCIE, IN 1.70%
  • KANSAS CITY-OVERLAND PARK-KANSAS CITY, MO-KS 1.84%
  • LAREDO, TX 2.11%
  • LAS VEGAS-HENDERSON, NV-AZ 1.88%
  • LOS ANGELES-LONG BEACH, CA 2.1%
  • MIAMI-FORT LAUDERDALE-PORT ST. LUCIE, FL 1.8%
  • MILWAUKEE-RACINE-WAUKESHA, WI 1.77%
  • MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, MN-WI 1.92%
  • NEW YORK-NEWARK, NY-NJ-CT-PA 2.11%
  • OMAHA-COUNCIL BLUFFS-FREMONT, NE-IA 1.84%
  • PALM BAY-MELBOURNE-TITUSVILLE, FL 1.75%
  • PHILADELPHIA-READING-CAMDEN, PA-NJ-DE-MD 1.98%
  • PHOENIX-MESA-SCOTTSDALE, AZ 1.83%
  • PITTSBURGH-NEW CASTLE-WEIRTON, PA-OH-WV 1.84%
  • PORTLAND-VANCOUVER-SALEM, OR-WA 1.90%
  • RALEIGH-DURHAM-CHAPEL HILL, NC 1.80%
  • RICHMOND, VA 1.90%
  • SACRAMENTO-ROSEVILLE, CA-NV 1.99%
  • SAN ANTONIO-NEW BRAUNFELS-PEARSALL, TX 2.02%
  • SAN DIEGO-CARLSBAD, CA 2.13%
  • SAN JOSE-SAN FRANCISCO-OAKLAND, CA 2.18%
  • SEATTLE-TACOMA, WA 2.15%
  • ST. LOUIS-ST. CHARLES-FARMINGTON, MO-IL 1.90%
  • TUCSON-NOGALES, AZ 1.85%
  • VIRGINIA BEACH-NORFOLK, VA-NC 1.87%
  • WASHINGTON-BALTIMORE-ARLINGTON, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA 2.27%
  • REST OF U.S. 1.66%
  • STATE OF ALASKA 2.09%
  • STATE OF HAWAII 1.87%

Pay Calculator

FedSmith has updated our pay calculator on FedsDataCenter.com to reflect the 2019 pay raise. You can use the pay calculator to see the impact the raise will have on your annual salary as well as salaries in the various pay localities (including the 6 new ones).

© 2019 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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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

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