Congratulations! Average Federal Salary Now Tops $101,000

The average federal salary now tops $100,000—not including the 5.25% average pay raise in 2024. Most federal employees are now in a locality pay area.

Average Federal Salary Before 2024 Pay Raise of 5.2%

As of September 30, 2023, the average federal employee salary reached $101,610.

This average salary does not include the 5.2% average pay raise for federal employees starting in January 2024. This was the largest federal employee raise in more than 40 years. The average salary also does not include employee benefits, which had an estimated value of $44,021 in 2021 for each employee.

Federal employees in some locality pay areas will often receive a higher raise than 5.2%. 5.2% is the average raise.

Federal employees under the General Schedule working in the Seattle-Tacoma, Washington area received a raise of 5.7% in 2024 at the high end of the locality pay system. At the lowest end, employees in the Houston, Texas area received a raise of 4.89%. The “Rest of the US” received a pay raise of 4.99%.

Here is a list of 2024 raises in all federal employee locality pay areas for 2024.

This average federal salary may surprise some readers as the Federal Salary Council (FSC) reports that over the last year, federal employees earned on average 27.54% less in wages than their private sector counterparts. 

This table shows the actual amount of the average salary increases for federal employees over the past several years rather than just the “official” pay raise approved and implemented with an executive order.

The average salary from 2017 to 2023 increased 38.76% in those seven years. The total annual raise figures announced each year for this same period is 17.3%.

Comparing Annual Federal Pay Raise to Actual Salary Increase

Average SalaryAnnual Raise %Actual Increase %DC Salary
Source: Office of Personnel Management

Some readers may wonder why the average salary in Washington, DC, is not included for 2023. This data has not been published, and we did not receive a response to a query on when or whether this data will be updated. FedSmith obtained the average federal employee salary as of September 2023 through another source at OPM in response to a specific query.

The 2024 pay raise for the Washington DC locality pay area is 5.31%. This locality pay area includes parts of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

Annual Federal Salary Increase Exceeds Average Pay Raise As Locality Pay Areas Expand

The amount of the annual pay raise is usually less than the actual average salary increase for federal employees. Why is this?

There are probably several reasons. Locality pay is a big reason for the difference between the approved pay raise and the actual increase. Other reasons for the difference are within-grade increases, promotions, and “grade creep” in the federal bureaucracy.

The number of locality pay areas has increased dramatically.

Since 2015, the number of locality pay areas has gone from 33 to 57, a 62.7% increase. This includes the four new areas designated as locality pay areas in 2024.

The latest data show that most federal employees are now in a locality pay area. Approximately 1,579,243 federal employees are now receiving locality pay—including the 2024 locality pay area changes that added a number of new people into the system. This means that most General Schedule (GS) federal employees are now in a locality pay area.

While the number of new locality pay areas is impressive, the actual increase is larger than it first appears. For example, in 2024, while four new locality pay areas were added to the pay system, the actual number of federal employees added was about 33,000. This is because some federal employees were added into existing locality pay areas rather than going into a new one.

These four new locality areas in 2024 were:

New 2024 Locality Pay Area2024 Pay Raise
Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA5.28%
Reno-Fernley, NV5.25%
Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls, NY5.46%
Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, WA-ID5.3%

You can see the full list of 2024 GS locality pay areas, including the four new ones, at 2024 GS Pay Scale for Federal Employees.

The value of being in a locality pay area over time is significant. While the difference in one year seems insignificant, this one example demonstrates the significant value of locality pay for a GS-12 in one locality area over nine years. The difference was 53% over these years.

FSC Calculations on Federal Pay Disparity Always Higher

The Federal Salary Council (FSC) membership consists primarily of federal employee union representatives so it is not an independent organization looking out for the public interest. Unsurprisingly, there is disagreement with the council’s math and recommendations for containing higher wages for the federal workforce.

An earlier Congressional Budget Office Report (CBO) report concluded, on average, that federal employee benefits are 52% higher for federal employees than private sector employees.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the Cato Institute has analyzed average federal employee salaries, including benefits in 2022. Cato has tracked this data for years.

In its 2022 report, the FSC concluded the pay disparity with the private sector was 22.47%. In 2020, the Council concluded the pay disparity was 26.71%. Cato reported that the differential between the average federal and private sector salary was 28.63% higher for federal workers. The most common argument against the Cato analysis is that federal employees are usually in jobs requiring a higher skill level and more education than those in the private sector.

Chris Edwards is the author of the 2022 analysis from the Cato Institute. He is the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute. His analysis that federal employee benefits are higher than the private sector was echoed in an analysis of federal employee pay and benefits by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in 2017. The FSC does not report the value of employee benefits. Cato usually reports the average federal salary, both including (total compensation) and excluding the value of employee benefits.

There is no end in sight to the different points of view as to whether federal salaries are too generous or too low.

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