Federal Pay Raise

Updated: June 30, 2022

Table of Contents

    Federal employees may receive a 4.6% pay increase to counter inflation, according to a draft 2023 appropriations bill for financial services and general government. Service members are on track to receive the same 4.6% military pay increase in 2023, according to a 2023 defense budget draft. 

    The 2022 federal pay raise averaged 2.7% for most federal government employees, according to the Office of Personnel Management.  In Aug. 2021, President Joe Biden submitted a letter to the Speaker of the House, outlining his plan for a federal pay raise for civilian employees.

    The increase included a 2.2% increase for all federal employees, plus an average locality increase of 0.5%.

    The president signed an executive order implementing the 2.7% federal pay increase on Dec. 22, 2021 and it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

    2022 General Schedule (GS) Pay Tables and Calculators

    These will be updated when the 2023 pay tables and calculators are released.

    2022 General Schedule (GS) Tables


    Veterans in the Federal Workforce

    According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), veterans represented approximately one-third (31%) of the total U.S. federal workforce in 2018. The highest percentages of veterans work in the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

    About Federal Pay (General Schedule Classification and Pay)

    The General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system covers most civilian white-collar federal employees (roughly 2.2 million worldwide) in professional, technical, administrative and clerical positions. OPM administers GS classification standards, qualifications, pay structure and related human resources policies for the government. Agencies classify their GS positions and appoint and pays GS employees according to OPM guidelines and federal law.

    The General Schedule has 15 grades. GS-1  is the lowest. GS-15 is the highest. Each of the 15 pay grades has 10 step rates.

    Employees can move to the next step (a kind of pay raise known as a “within-grade step increase”) based on acceptable job performance and the following periods of service:

    • One year at steps 1-3
    • Two years at steps 4-6
    • Three years at steps 7-9

    It normally takes 18 years to advance from step 1 to step 10 within a single GS grade, if an employee remains in that grade. However, employees with outstanding performance ratings may receive up to one additional quality step increase per year, according to OPM.

    Each step is worth about 3% of the federal employee’s salary.

    Federal employees at the GS-2 level need at least a high school diploma, according to the VA. At GS-5, employees need a bachelor’s degree. At levels GS-9 and higher, employees should have at least a master’s degree.

    Locality Pay

    Locality pay is an adjustment for civilian federal employees in specified occupations and geographic locations. Locality pay reflects private-sector salaries for similar jobs in similar areas.

    The Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

    The Office of Personnel Management provides policy leadership and expertise on a variety of government-wide pay programs for federal employees, including the General Schedule (GS), Law Enforcement Officer Pay Schedules and the Federal Wage System (FWS).

    Federal Pay Agencies

    Federal pay agencies include cabinet departments and large independent agencies but not mid-to small-sized agencies. 

    • Cabinet Department Agencies: Agriculture, the Air Force, the Army, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), State, the Interior, the Navy, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs
    • Large Independent Agencies: Agency for International Development (AID), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia, Federal Reserve System (FSR), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (SSA), Broadcasting Board of Governors, Government Printing Office (SSA), National Science Foundation (SSA), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (SSA), Securities and Exchange Commission (OFF), Small Business Administration (SBA), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Smithsonian Institution, Social Security Administration (SSA)

    Federal Employees by the Numbers

    • Virginia (144,295), Washington D.C., (141,367), Califorina (152,446) and Maryland (120,705) have the most federal employees, according to 2017 OPM data.
    • More than 15% of federal workers work in the DMV area, including Washington, D.C., and parts of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, according to OPM’s 2017 data.
    • Less than 1.5% of federal employees work outside the United States, according to OPM’s 2017 data.
    • Roughly 36% of federal GS employees work for the Department of Defense, according to OPM’s 2017 data.

    Difference Between COLA and Federal Pay Increases

    Pay increases for current federal workers differ from federal cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. 

    Changes in private-sector wages and salaries drive federal pay increases. Federal pay increases help the government compete for talent by paying employees in line with what the private-sector offers.

    Increases in the CPI-W inflation measurement determine cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) The CPI-W measures changes in the price of a market basket of consumer goods and services.

    COLA ensures that a retiree’s income can continue to purchase the same amount of goods and services after years of retirement that it purchased at the start of retirement.

    General Schedule (GS) Pay Increase History


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