Will You Be One of 16,000 Added to Higher Paying GS Locality Pay Areas?

New GS locality pay areas may mean higher salaries for as many as 16,000 federal employees in about 190 jurisdictions. Where are these new locations?

The Federal Salary Council (FSC) can (and usually does) recommend changes to locality pay areas to the President’s Pay Agent. They make recommendations to incorporate new areas into existing locality pay areas or to create new GS locality pay areas when certain criteria are met. Generally, their goal is to add more people to the locality pay system and to provide higher salaries for federal employees through the locality pay system.

Adding Small and More Rural Areas to Locality Pay Areas

So, as one example, if an employee is in Westmoreland County, Virgina, this employee would be in the Washington, DC locality pay area if the FSC proposal is accepted. Those in the Washington locality pay area received a pay raise of 3.02% with an overall locality payment of 33.53% in 2022. There are no catch-up raises if Westmoreland County joins the Washington locality pay area but future raises reflecting the higher rate would add up over time. Mount Holly, VA, a town in Westmoreland County, is about a two-hour drive to Washington on a good day.

The Salary Council has been aggressive in adding new areas to be added as a new GS locality pay area or added to an existing area. While the latest proposals would not impact as many people as some earlier proposals, there are a large number of areas throughout the country that would become part of a locality pay area.

Cost of Living and GS Locality Pay Areas

Every year, FedSmith receives multiple queries from people asking questions such as “Why is [my city] not included in a locality pay area? The cost of living is very high in [my city] and it seems unfair that we do not receive locality pay.”

The reality is that GS locality pay is not based on the cost of living.

Locality pay increases are based on a comparison by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This federal agency measures non-federal compensation in a labor market and compares it to federal pay for GS employees performing similar work in the same geographic area.

BLS will, for example, compare the average salary of an engineer at a private company or state with the average salary of a federal employee who is an engineer in the same city. The pay gap between the two is a major factor in the GS locality pay adjustment for a specific area during a given year. The cost of housing or other living expenses in an area is not the major factor.

Quickly Search Jurisdictions to be Added: About 190 Counties (and Others)

The charts that follow show some of the changes recommended in their latest report. These counties or other jurisdictions would be added to existing GS locality pay areas as indicated if the recommendations are accepted by the Pay Agent. There are about 180 counties or other designated areas that would be added into GS locality pay areas.

If you are close to a locality pay area, it may be worth your time to check out the entire list. You may be surprised to see your area listed.

The effect of these changes would be to increase the salaries of about 16,000 federal employees by providing a GS locality pay rate for the existing pay area. In 2022, those in the “Rest of the US” pay area received a pay raise of 2.42%.

Many of these areas are small counties or other classifications in rural areas. Most computers will allow a search of this article for particular words (Command + F on a Mac/Control + F on a PC).

So, for example, if you are in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and are wondering if your city is being added, just do a search for “Rocky Mount” (minus the quotation marks) and you will see that your area would be added to the Raleigh, NC locality pay area. This would add a small bump to the annual salary of employees in Rocky Mount. Many of the proposed areas are relatively small and some may be surprised at being added to a locality pay area.

For most of these areas, being added to a GS locality pay area will result in at least a small increase in your federal salary.

Locations Adjacent to Multiple GS Locality Pay Areas Proposed as Areas of Application

LocationSingle-County Statistical Area (If Applicable)Adjacent Locality Pay AreasRecommended Locality Pay AreaAdded
GS Employment
Clay County, AL
Birmingham and AtlantaBirmingham19
Schuylkill County, PAPottsville, PA Micropolitan Statistical AreaPhiladelphia, Harrisburg, and New YorkPhiladelphia317
Gonzales County, TX
San Antonio and AustinSan Antonio23
Jim Hogg County, TX
Laredo and Corpus ChristiLaredo237
Westmoreland County, VA
Washington, DC and RichmondWashington, DC11
Total GS Employees607

In the following chart are areas that would add another 11,859 federal employees to the GS locality pay system.

The following chart shows additional counties that would be incorporated into existing GS locality pay areas. These are “multi-county areas” that would be absorbed into existing pay areas.

Multi-County CBSAs Proposed as Areas of Application

Pay AreaMulti-County AreaAdded GS Employment
Atlanta, GAColumbus-Auburn-Opelika, GA-AL CSA3,912
Birmingham, ALTuscaloosa, AL MSA1,263
Boston, MALebanon, NH-VT Micropolitan Area1,046
Charlotte, NCHickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC MSA149
Chicago, ILRockford-Freeport-Rochelle, IL CSA239
Cleveland, OHMansfield-Ashland-Bucyrus, OH CSA241
Cleveland, OHYoungstown-Warren, OH-PA CSA921
Dallas, TXArdmore, OK Micropolitan Area29
Davenport, IADixon-Sterling, IL CSA31
Dayton, OHLima-Van Wert-Celina, OH CSA155
Detroit, MILansing-East Lansing, MI MSA773
Huntsville, ALFlorence-Muscle Shoals, AL MSA103
Indianapolis, INBloomington-Bedford, IN CSA142
Indianapolis, INLafayette-West Lafayette-Frankfort, IN CSA209
Indianapolis, INRichmond-Connersville, IN CSA42
Minneapolis, MNMankato-New Ulm, MN CSA65
Minneapolis, MNRochester-Austin, MN CSA489
Philadelphia, PASalisbury-Cambridge, MD-DE CSA (excludes portion already in Washington-Baltimore locality pay area)358
Pittsburgh, PAJohnstown-Somerset, PA CSA451
Pittsburgh, PAWheeling, WV-OH MSA211
Raleigh, NCFayetteville, NC MSA (all but Moore County, NC, is already in the Raleigh locality pay area and will remain there).30
Raleigh, NCRocky Mount-Wilson-Roanoke Rapids, NC CSA79
San Antonio, TXKerrville-Fredericksburg, TX CSA324
Washington, DCCumberland, MD-WV MSA327
Total GS Employees to be Added11,859

These counties from several different states are proposed to be added to existing GS locality pay areas.

Single County CBSAs Proposed as Areas of Application

Pay AreaPlace NameSingle-County MSAAdded GS Employment
Birmingham, ALEtowah Co. ALGadsden, AL MSA111
Detroit, MIJackson Co. MIJackson, MI MSA57
Milwaukee, WIFond du Lac Co. WIFond du Lac, WI MSA33
Milwaukee, WISheboygan Co. WISheboygan, WI MSA12
Sacramento, CAButte Co. CAChico, CA MSA264
Total GS Employees Impacted477

The Salary Council is proposing to add numerous counties into existing locality pay areas on the theory that these counties are “areas of application.” This basically means that the counties do not qualify as a locality pay area but they are close to an existing one. There are several pages of these counties that are being proposed as additions to GS locality pay areas.

Pay AreaPlace NameAdded GS Employment
Albany, NYGreene Co. NY4
Albany, NYHamilton Co. NY1
Atlanta, GABanks Co. GA1
Atlanta, GACherokee Co. AL4
Atlanta, GACleburne Co. AL19
Atlanta, GAElbert Co. GA49
Atlanta, GAFranklin Co. GA3
Atlanta, GAGilmer Co. GA31
Atlanta, GAGreene Co. GA4
Atlanta, GALumpkin Co. GA40
Atlanta, GAPutnam Co. GA30
Atlanta, GARabun Co. GA23
Atlanta, GARandolph Co. AL5
Atlanta, GATaliaferro Co. GA0
Atlanta, GAWhite Co. GA2
Austin, TXBlanco Co. TX26
Austin, TXBurnet Co. TX16
Austin, TXLee Co. TX2
Austin, TXMilam Co. TX7
Birmingham, ALWinston Co. AL25
Boston, MACarroll Co. NH43
Boston, MACheshire Co. NH37
Buffalo, NYWyoming Co. NY8
Burlington, VTAddison Co. VT32
Burlington, VTLamoille Co. VT2
Charlotte, NCChesterfield Co. SC15
Chicago, ILIroquois Co. IL4
Chicago, ILStarke Co. IN9
Cincinnati, OHAdams Co. OH1
Cincinnati, OHCarroll Co. KY7
Cincinnati, OHFleming Co. KY7
Cincinnati, OHHighland Co. OH14
Cincinnati, OHLewis Co. KY2
Cincinnati, OHOwen Co. KY0
Cincinnati, OHRipley Co. IN6
Cincinnati, OHRobertson Co. KY0
Cincinnati, OHSwitzerland Co. IN2
Cleveland, OHHolmes Co. OH12
Columbus, OHCoshocton Co. OH12
Columbus, OHHardin Co. OH7
Columbus, OHMorgan Co. OH5
Columbus, OHNoble Co. OH0
Columbus, OHPike Co. OH20
Columbus, OHVinton Co. OH3
Corpus Christi, TXLive Oak Co. TX182
Pay AreaPlace NameAdded GS Employment
Corpus Christi, TXRefugio Co. TX5
Dallas, TXHill Co. TX20
Dallas, TXJack Co. TX3
Dallas, TXMontague Co. TX5
Dallas, TXRains Co. TX0
Dallas, TXVan Zandt Co. TX7
Davenport, IACedar Co. IA51
Davenport, IAJackson Co. IA7
Davenport, IALouisa Co. IA29
Denver, COLincoln Co. CO4
Des Moines, IAAdair Co. IA3
Des Moines, IAClarke Co. IA5
Des Moines, IAGreene Co. IA3
Des Moines, IAHamilton Co. IA12
Des Moines, IALucas Co. IA13
Des Moines, IAMonroe Co. IA8
Des Moines, IAPoweshiek Co. IA7
Detroit, MISanilac Co. MI5
Detroit, MITuscola Co. MI19
Harrisburg, PAJuniata Co. PA21
Houston, TXColorado Co. TX7
Houston, TXGrimes Co. TX2
Houston, TXJackson Co. TX6
Houston, TXMadison Co. TX1
Huntsville, ALLincoln Co. TN3
Indianapolis, INBlackford Co. IN1
Indianapolis, INFountain Co. IN4
Indianapolis, INRandolph Co. IN3
Indianapolis, INRush Co. IN1
Indianapolis, INTipton Co. IN1
Kansas City, MOAnderson Co. KS1
Kansas City, MOCarroll Co. MO5
Kansas City, MODaviess Co. MO4
Kansas City, MOGentry Co. MO4
Kansas City, MOHenry Co. MO13
Kansas City, MOHolt Co. MO8
Laredo, TXLa Salle Co. TX105
Minneapolis, MNKanabec Co. MN7
Minneapolis, MNMeeker Co. MN12
Minneapolis, MNMorrison Co. MN188
Minneapolis, MNPine Co. MN196
Minneapolis, MNPolk Co. WI24
Minneapolis, MNWaseca Co. MN167
New York, NYSullivan Co. NY25
New York, NYWayne Co. PA361
Omaha, NEBurt Co. NE1
Omaha, NEFremont Co. IA4
Omaha, NEShelby Co. IA8
Pittsburgh, PAGreene Co. PA21
Portland, ORWahkiakum Co. WA2
Raleigh, NCCaswell Co. NC1
Pay AreaPlace NameEmployment Interchange RateAdded GS Employment
Raleigh, NCWarren Co. NC55.00%2
Richmond, VABrunswick Co. VA26.62%4
Richmond, VAEssex Co. VA32.92%3
Richmond, VAGreensville Co. VA23.36%0
Richmond, VANottoway Co. VA42.53%148
Sacramento, CAAlpine Co. CA41.04%0
Sacramento, CAAmador Co. CA33.91%24
Sacramento, CAColusa Co. CA30.46%20
Sacramento, CASierra Co. CA24.45%25
San Antonio, TXKarnes Co. TX29.32%55
San Antonio, TXMcMullen Co. TX22.53%1
San Jose, CACalaveras Co. CA29.92%46
Seattle, WAGrays Harbor Co. WA21.55%34
St. Louis, MOCrawford Co. MO34.45%2
St. Louis, MOFayette Co. IL27.72%4
St. Louis, MOGasconade Co. MO34.02%1
St. Louis, MOGreene Co. IL38.11%3
St. Louis, MOIron Co. MO33.99%3
St. Louis, MOMadison Co. MO36.47%4
St. Louis, MOMontgomery Co. IL36.25%27
St. Louis, MOMontgomery Co. MO33.24%7
St. Louis, MOPike Co. MO22.35%9
St. Louis, MORandolph Co. IL30.55%10
St. Louis, MOSte. Genevieve Co. MO51.91%5
St. Louis, MOWashington Co. IL52.11%6
St. Louis, MOWashington Co. MO68.47%32
Virginia Beach, VAChowan Co. NC49.53%11
Virginia Beach, VAHertford Co. NC21.97%16
Virginia Beach, VAMiddlesex Co. VA36.78%1
Virginia Beach, VASurry Co. VA76.16%1
Washington, DCCaroline Co. MD58.41%8
Washington, DCFulton Co. PA54.21%2
Washington, DCHardy Co. WV26.63%27
Washington, DCOrange Co. VA63.79%15
Washington, DCShenandoah Co. VA41.31%51
Total GS Employees Impacted2742

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a CBSA?

Core-based statistical areas (CBSAs) or counties that are adjacent to the basic locality pay area as potential areas of application.

What is an Employment Interchange Rate?

The “employment interchange rate” is the sum of (1) the percentage of employed residents of the area under consideration for a locality pay area and who work in the basic locality pay area and (2) the percentage of employment in the area under consideration that is accounted for by workers who reside in the basic locality pay area.

What is a locality pay area and an area of application?

Locality pay areas consist of (1) a main metropolitan area defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and forming the basic locality pay area and, where criteria recommended by the Federal Salary Council and approved by the President’s Pay Agent are met, (2) areas of application.

Areas of application are locations that are adjacent to the basic locality pay area and meet approved criteria for inclusion in the locality pay area.

How is GS Locality Pay Calculated?

Each GS Locality Pay Area has a locality pay percentage. This percentage is usually updated each year. This percentage specifies how much over the GS Base Pay government employees working within that locality will earn.

Where Do I Find the Locality Pay Percentage?

The locality pay percentage is posted at the top of the pay table for each locality pay area. Here is an example for 2022: “INCORPORATING THE 2.2% GENERAL SCHEDULE INCREASE AND A LOCALITY PAYMENT OF 18.68%”.

This means that 2.2% was added to the GS Base Pay Table for the Albany, NY locality pay area in 2022. The 18.68% means that this percentage has been added over time to the base pay table for this locality pay area.

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