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Robert Longley

Frozen or Not, Federal Pay Has Increased

By April 19, 2013

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The now extended pay rate freeze first imposed by President Obama in 2010 did not stop the average salary of federal employees from increasing by almost $1,800 over the last two years, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The OPM's latest Common Characteristics of the Government report show that as of September 2012, the average annual salary of a full-time, permanent federal employee was $78,467, compared to $76,701 in December 2010.

In addition, the median salary - the salary at which half are higher and half are lower - increased by over $5,100, from $69,550 in 2010, to $74,714 now.

While federal employees have not gotten a regular annual across-the-board raise since January 2010, many remained eligible for and received performance-based promotions or automatic, periodic "step" increases since then.

Calling the government's spending priorities "out of whack," House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) objected to a federal pay system that allows salaries to increase so significantly during a pay freeze. In the Washington Post, he was quoted as saying, "These increases are driven by automatic, tenure-based pay hikes that are in no way tied to merit or performance."

Noting in a February 15 press release that despite the "so-called" pay freeze, federal employees continue to make an average of 16% more than their private sector counterparts, Rep. Issa added, "Nearly half-a-million federal employees make more than 100,000 per year."

Also See: Government Job Finder

According the OPM report, the total number of full-time permanent federal workforce actually grew by 24,861 employees, from 1,831,719 to 1,856,580 during the first full year of the pay freeze from FY2010 to FY2011. However, the total fell by 6,269 employees between FY2011 and FY2012, perhaps more accurately reflecting the effect of the extended pay freeze.

But it's not all good for federal employees, as up to one million of them still face the possibility of having to take as many as 14 unpaid days off due sequestration-driven furloughs. In addition, most civilian federal employees newly hired this year will be required to contribute an additional 2.3% of their salary toward their retirement benefits.

Also See: Federal Employee Benefits

President Obama's presidential budget proposal released on April 10, calls for a 1.0% raise starting in January 2014. However, Obama's proposal would also require federal employees to contribute an additional 0.4% of their salary toward their retirement during each of the next three years.

Also See:
Bill is Triple Whammy for Federal Employees
Federal Workers' Job Satisfaction in Freefall
Federal Leadership Declining, Employees Say


April 19, 2013 at 9:54 am
(1) dnokc says:

If this article is true I have been
bamboozled! I’m a GS-11, I have been a federal employee since 1994. My pay increased exactly $913 during this period. I am aware of NO ONE whom has received a $5000 increase in salary. Either the author misinterpreted the data, or someone at OPM is smoking crack!

April 19, 2013 at 9:56 am
(2) dnokc says:

Someone either misunderstood the data or is smoking crack!

April 19, 2013 at 10:10 am
(3) northern reaches says:

So when can we expect to see that extra money. I haven’t seen it that is for sure. I think I am making about 848 dollars more now then I was. So I guess I am owed 600 and some change. But I do know over at our Supervisors Office there are alot of new cars. That must be where all the money is, those 11′s to 14′s.

April 19, 2013 at 10:14 am
(4) Says who says:

Perhaps you should separate the classifications and stop averaging. As a GS7, step 9 I make no where near $78,000. And I have been here 22 years. I did just get my step, after waiting three years…but did not see one cent of it in my wallet. I am now below what I made before the step and with the increase in taxes.

April 19, 2013 at 10:14 am
(5) madison says:

I have not received even one cent increase in my wages and will not see anything again this year. I have been with the government for 5 years and my increase in 5 years doesn’t even come close to the rise in the cost of living. I only wish I was making what they say the average pay is for federal workers. I don’t even make half of that amount.

April 19, 2013 at 10:23 am
(6) pboh says:


Expected and could be predicted by Congressional staffers, if they knew what they were doing. The pay bands were frozen, if Congress wanted to freeze all promotions then that’s what they should have done. The journalists don’t likely know know the details and shouldn’t count on on a Congressman’s “comments” when obviously even the Committee Chairs don’t fully understand the details of the legislation nor it’s objectives. Sequestration has now resulted in hiring freezes within many agencies. Only one more step to total Congressional control of government compensation. Don’t whine, take that step, but be informed on the details and anticipate the results and consequences. I think the Chair is well aware, and is manipulating the press. Silly press, bought it hook line and sinker (or were they playing dumb as well?).

April 19, 2013 at 10:25 am
(7) Base Level says:

I agree with “Says Who”, I just received my Step 8 after waiting 3 years and my take home pay actually went down because of the increase in health care/dental care costs and social security tax increases. If someone is seeing an increase, they are not at Base level doing the work, just sitting in an office drinking coffee.

April 19, 2013 at 10:35 am
(8) HR spec says:

I find it hilarious that people who know nothing about the government and pay make it look like we are living “high on the horse.” Not the case and I’d like to meet those who are living this way.

April 19, 2013 at 10:41 am
(9) FCL says:

I’ve been at a step 10 for a number years now. With the pay freeze, my pay has remained the same for 3 years now. But like the others, my take home has gone down due to increases in medical costs, life insurance costs. didn’t even get the 2% reduction in social security due to being CSRS. It just goes to show that you can lie with statistics.

April 19, 2013 at 10:45 am
(10) sellers says:

I agree with ‘pboh says’ and all of the rest of the comments – those of us at the bottom has not seen any increase in our pay; maybe it is the executives in the Government especially congress, senate, house reps, etc They are not doing anything but keep getting paid the BIG bucks!!!

April 19, 2013 at 10:55 am
(11) CK of MO says:

I would really like to know how to get an increase!!!! I have been stuck at a step 10 for over 4 years and have not seen one cent of a raise. For 3 years now my reviews and supervisors say I need to be promoted up to the next pay grade but they have every excuse why it cannot happen. Supervisors promise it will happen but they move up or leave for other jobs. I have applied for other gs jobs in my commuting area and qualifiy for higher pay grades but keep getting beaten out for someone with VA or spousal perferences. We keep hearing how Federal Employees pay keeps increasing, my coworker and I are just so upset of hearing it for everyone but we can’t !

April 19, 2013 at 11:06 am
(12) usgovinfo says:

The “interpretations” of the data are those of the OPM and Rep. Issa (R-California).

Robert Longley

April 19, 2013 at 11:11 am
(13) Just Thoughts says:

“federal workforce actually grew by 24,861 employees” I wonder how many of these are SES positions or for that matter congressional staffer positions.

“Nearly half-a-million federal employees make more than 100,000 per year.” Sounds like maybe the federal government is top heavy. Maybe they should trim the fat from the top down starting with congress. Because according to my pay scale in order to being $100,000 a year you have to be at least a GS 13 Step 8. Now since we all know that step 1 – 4 is fairly easy. Comes around every year, but from that point on the are three years apart. Most GS 13 unless they came in the workforce straight to a GS 13 position will have several years in and therefore the step increases will likely not be that fast. Should take at least 12-15 years minimum to reach the 100,000 dollar level. Unless of course you come in straight to the SES grades which start at over 100,000. So again I say maybe the fed is top heavy and need to trim from the top.

“the median salary – the salary at which half are higher and half are lower – increased by over $5,100, from $69,550 in 2010, to $74,714 now.” $74,000…you are again talking GS 11 Step 10 (top of the GS 11 range on my pay scale) or a GS 12 Step 4. So over half the work force is GS 13 or above? Again sounds like way to many chiefs. And let’s face it folks where the rubber meets the road is usually the responsibility of the GS 9 and below. Do you now feel overly supervised? I sure do.

April 19, 2013 at 11:11 am
(14) Chris Lemay says:

This author/idiot should be flagged as inappropriate!!!!

April 19, 2013 at 11:13 am
(15) watcher_in_the_rye says:

“These increases are driven by automatic, tenure-based pay hikes that are in no way tied to merit or performance.”

Clearly the honorable congressman doesn’t understand the GS pay system. Step increases ARE tied to merit/performance. If you don’t get a ‘fully successful’ on your performance appraisal then you don’t get a step increase. Your supervisor has to approve the step increase as well.
I always receive ‘exceeds expectations’ or ‘outstanding’ ratings because I work for them. But I have rarely received a bonus and when I do it’s at less than 1% of salary. Not exactly rolling in the dough here.

Statistics – “The average human has one breast and one testicle. ~Des McHale”

April 19, 2013 at 11:19 am
(16) Laim says:

The basic reason pay on average has increase is due to step increases for time in grade. It is no different than being in the military and getting a time in grade increase. Perhaps, Rep. Issa and the other members of Congress should reduce their pay to $150,000.00 per year, cut their expenses (travel, etc.) by 50% and stop spending more money than is coming in. Stop borrowing money to give money the foreign counties. The system is broken and Congress is out for their own personal gain, blowing smoke at the public and making issues out of things that are not the issues. They spend like drunken sailors and never worry about how they are going to pay for it. Lead by example and stop stealing funds from Social Security and the American Worker.

God Bless America and God help us, because Congress is only interested in helping themselves.

April 19, 2013 at 11:58 am
(17) justafedworker says:

I agree with all…
(FV-07same as GS-07) basic pay not even close to $50,000 with fed for 12yrs) of what they are saying those of us at the bottom has not seen any increase in our pay for 2yrs; who get all the money— SUPERVISOR, They are not doing anything (just in meeting and in TDY for another meeting)….but keep getting paid the BIG bucks!!!

April 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm
(18) Lean in the wallet says:

I agree with # 4 & # 9 as I am in the same boat, although a GS-7/5 I received my step increase last year after 3 years waiting, only to have that small amount taken back at the first of the year due to the taxes.
Going backwards struggling to keep a float.

April 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm
(19) Beare says:

Being below average just makes me feel so cheap!! I’ve been at the top step of a GS-11 for about three years so I haven’t gotten that “automatic” increase – AND – because there’s no money in the economy, there haven’t been any of those “performance” increases in my agency either. But, I still come to work (at least on the days I won’t be furloughed) because my job is helping to teach Johnny to fly.

April 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm
(20) Roman Dzialo says:

These articles are meant to enrage general public who has no knowledge of the inner workings of the government and are slanted by half truths. First of all, comparing my position with an average worker outside of government services is not always a simple as position to position and salary to salary comparison. My position in the government requires high level of classification, the general public does not. Most federal jobs are in larger metropolitan areas, general public not. If you are truly comparing federal jobs to other private sector jobs then you must compare against the contractor to federal government, whose job requires classification for equal federal government work and whose job is in the metro areas. If we make that comparison the contractor cost is 2 – 3 times greater than my costs and I manage the contract and the contractors who work for me.
I also can see why Representative Darrel Issa is upset when the government is at a pay freeze why did salaries go up so drastically. I guess the same argument can be made to his staff budget increasing an average of $38K a year from 2010 – 2012. While the government works at a pay freeze his staff budget (about $1 Million a year)is not affected and can increase 4% on average a year during a period where the government needs to stop spending.

We could save money in the government by cutting State Representatives and States Senators staff Salaries by 20% and save $132 Million per year. Why concentrate on that when we can pick on the average government worker who doesn’t work for our elected leaders.

April 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm
(21) Rod says:

Don’t know about you guys I am a GS 11 supervisor. Got pushed into the NSPS program and did well. Got removed from the NSPS and down graded into GS11 instead of the GS 12 slot I was sitting at. My pay is $60 less a pay period than it was in 2010. Now I am doing a GS11 job and will be until this mess is fixed. VOTE THEM ALL OUT!

April 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm
(22) HID Aurora says:

Try working the WG (wage grade) side…after 6 years the time-in-grade step promotions are done. Most of the 50+ at work have seen nothing but reductions in their paychecks, since everything except their take home pay has increased. And the comparison between inside/outside government pay is laughable. We settled on the security of federal work over more money on the outside, but there’s no longer such security.

April 19, 2013 at 7:38 pm
(23) DL says:

The person who wrote this article has never been a federal employee, obviously. If there is a $5000 difference in salary for an employee, they author is looking at the difference between grades. Somebody please educate this fool as to the pay procedures for grades. Maybe then we will get that federal raise we deserve. In 2010 the federal worker was 23% behind the private sector in raises, now we are close to 32%.

April 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm
(24) JV in VA says:

The ONLY “average” pay could have increased is through step increases for eligible employees. Personally, I’ve had a pay CUT each of the last 4 years as health insurance rates continue to rise while I’ve not gotten even a modest bump in salary to off-set these costs. Then add in the higher fuel prices, grocery prices skyrocketing, and my wife unable to find employment we are in bad shape. And of course it was a REPUBLICAN that said government employees make more than the private sector. I work with over 25 contractors and they all make more than the government employees doing the same work.

April 20, 2013 at 8:30 am
(25) Mike says:

This article is so misleading it is disgusting. Obviously the writer of this article doesn’t know his ass from whole in the ground!
I have worked govt 33yrs & grade 8 step 10 & all I’ve gotten is less pay & they continue to take more! Vote Congress out & this yahoo who wrote this false article. Show me the money dude!!

April 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm
(26) DarthDana says:


1. As I understand it, it wasn’t a pay freeze, it was a COLA freeze. There’s a difference.

2. Lots of GS12/13/14s were enticed/forced to retire. Lower grades moved up into their vacant positions. Unable to fill now-vacant lower grades due to hiring freeze. Tips the average wage computations toward the upper end.

April 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm
(27) Frank says:

I would like to know what percentage of the personnel receiving raises were step increases approved by immediate supervisors? What percentage of the current GS system are frozen at the step 10 level? What percentage of those frozen have career progression/merit promotion available locally? What percentage of the performance based promotions were in-house versus relocation moves? What percent of those relocation moves were funded by the government versus the individual paying entirely for the move? Over 90% of current job annoucements do not authorized relocation funds. How much was the average relocation costs bourne by the employee? How long will it take the employee to recuperate all relocation expenses before he/she actually can benefit from the pay raise? What percentage of the median salary of the lower half received $5,100 or more? What was the average pay raise for the lower half of the median salary? Anyone taking a new job in another job series is not to be considered a pay raise because it is an entirely new job. No different than in the private sector. As a government employee who falls in the lower half of the median salary who is frozen at the step 10 level with no career progression available locally and due to retire within 3 years it is not beneficial for me to relocate when the government is not funding the move. My pay has been frozen for the last three years. This year my taxes increased. I am expected to suffer 14 days of furlough an my rent is increasing again. So the private sector is not suffering anymore than I am. Congress is the blame for all these articles. When they established the pay freeze they should have researched the subject properly. They should have frozen step increases and merit promotions as well as placing a 100% freeze on hiring. Only by freezing job hiring, step increases and merit promotions along with the standard pay raise would everyone have been treated equally.

April 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm
(28) Cotapper says:

I’m soooo SICK and TIRED of authors and those who say the federal employees are over paid, or receiving raises while on pay freezes, or can afford furloughs during a sequestration. Walk in my shoes. Read my lips (words): I have not had a raise of any kind in 3 yrs., my bills including insurance have increased, the groceries went up while the packaging went down, prices all over the state (and country) have risen, fuel, utilities, services all have risen, I am being furloughed without pay for up to 9 days. This country is going down the tubes and this Administration is the cause. Stop blaming the lowly federal employee for “The Hill’s” spending problem. Stop talking about federal employees with your lies because your comparisons are onions to strawberries, completely false, wrong and idiotic! Federal employees are not the problem, just like guns are not the problem. For God sake, get educated and think for yourself, stop generalizing.

April 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm
(29) Al says:

Sorry but that is a lot of hooey. My check has done nothing but go down for 3 years meanwhile as everyone knows expenses and deductions keep going up. And no, we are not overpaid workers. Everyone I know works like a dog and you don’t even get a thank you for your efforts. Staffing levels go down, my workload and stress goes up up up. I for one am one very worn down Federal employee of 23 years who can’t possibly multi task one iota more. The problems in this country do not stem from federal workers, we are only doing our jobs like everyone else. During all these budget cuts social programs are going down the tubes. No one mentions oil subsidies or unappreciated foreign aid, they need to take a hit and cuts like the rest of us do.

May 13, 2013 at 10:08 am
(30) Tuan says:

Excuse me?!?!?!? I’m acutally making less money in 2013 than 2012 because of the pay freeze and the increase in my health insurance!

May 13, 2013 at 10:15 am
(31) Robert Longley says:


AVERAGE: meaning some salaries went up, some went down and some remained the same.

May 24, 2013 at 10:55 am
(32) Ret Marine says:

I don’t think the ‘average’ government employee has seen anything close to that in pay increases. But…..

What you all have to remember is how top heavy government positions and salaries are. Over 60% of all employees under the DoJ are GS13 and above. Add in their AUO, tech pay, OGVs, performance awards, etc.. and yeah, it’s easy to see how things could average out that high just on step increases alone.

If the Fed were held to corporate standards for pay & performance it would be a different work environment completely. Especially on the Fed LE side of things.

June 3, 2013 at 12:25 am
(33) jr23 says:

and look at the general public if you still have a job your pay got cut and due to obamacare either lost medical or it went up drastically
,or you got put as a self employed contractor with no benefits and all the expenses.
in contrast its almost impossible to get fired as a fed employee just look at the BP regulators that partied with the BP instead of regulating
the persons who had the expensive retreats on taxpayers dole
and except for the sequester you don’t get laid off when thing get slow
how many managers ever returned unspent money back to the treasury
no they spend on frivolous buying then the next yr it gets sold as unneeded surplus i agree sequestration is stupid but Obama asked for it and he got what he asked for and many in congress especially the multiterm politicians love there pork

June 16, 2013 at 11:01 pm
(34) leprr says:

I am a GL9 step 7. Since 2010 my rent, gas, health insurance, taxes and government approved hotel perdiem have increased. My annual salary increased by about $900 and my cost of living allowance has stayed the same. The highest paid person of the nine I work with makes about $60,245/ year and he retires next year. If u want to know the facts ask the people not the media.

June 16, 2013 at 11:13 pm
(35) leppr says:

“Obama’s Africa trip could cost $60 to $100 million” USA Today June 16, 2013 (enough said)

July 8, 2013 at 11:34 pm
(36) CC says:

You know, a lot of us federal employees would love to be considered for pay increases based on our merit or performance. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t work that way – inflation adjustments (when they pass) and step increases based on time in grade every couple of years or so are the only increases we are eligible for. Instead, the cost of living has gone up more than 5% in the time our pay’s been frozen, and if we’re lucky MAYBE our “tenure based pay raises” let us keep pace with that… until this year, when furloughs will cut thousands of dollars from our paychecks instead.

July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am
(37) GC says:

What a horible use of statistics- especially looking at mean and median averages. There is no way the median shifted $5k because of step increases! I wonder if what is happening is that the younger crowd that where recently hired and less invested in their retirement plans jumped ship and got better paying jobs in industry- leaving an older workforce with a higher percentage of people at the tops of the scales who need to ride out to retirement. That would cause a shift in the average salary.

And I agree- these congressmen, staffers, and journalists don’t even bother to understand the system – step increases ARE tied to perfromance. You have to earn good ratings on your evals in order to get them. (as was stated earlier) “Journalists” need to learn to do their homework.

August 2, 2013 at 8:24 am
(38) Plum says:

Are we talking average pay? Because there has also been a hiring freeze…. lower paying jobs (entry level) are also decreasing. Work the lower level fed employees do is now work going to contractors. The federal workers are mostly highly educated workers….

August 6, 2013 at 11:21 am
(39) BARBBF says:

Federal employees might have some salary increase from bonuses and in-grade increases. BUT Federal Retirees have gotten NO increases for the past 3 years. So don’t keep talking that crap about Feds still getting pay increases inspite of the pay freeze.

August 18, 2013 at 11:21 am
(40) suat says:

are you a Moran or what I’m wg worker in NJ not only am I 25 percent under paid on what private sector gets in NY which we are under that pay scale I also pay for benefits where as to all and I mean all unionized workers in my field in NYC pay zero for benefits which when you take that into account I am 35 percent underpaid I haven’t received a raise in 3 Years bringing me further below what I should be making so why don’t you actually investigate facts before making a statement.

August 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm
(41) BOPBLR says:

Everyone has done a good job here of discussing the GS’s. I myself am WS, so I was capped at 6 years. I haven’t seen an increase, and never will again without a raise. But, as others have mentioned, my costs have gone up…..MY HEALTHCARE…For Starters! Anyone had a good taste of Obamacare yet? Tastes like a cardboard ribeye that you had to pay full price for. Gas, groceries, everything! Schools consistently are asking parents to pay for more of what they need in the classrooms. I’m just fed up with hearing about overpaid Federal Workers! I paid for my education, spent my time in the military, pay my taxes and oh! That’s Right! KEEP A SECURITY CLEARANCE. That’s something most of the private sector couldn’t do if their life depended on it! You folks that think all Federal Employees live high on the hog like this administration can go **** up a rope!

September 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm
(42) Mike says:

The writer of this article is blowing smoke!!! Where does this jerk get those stats?? Not real!!!

September 24, 2013 at 1:27 pm
(43) Rob says:

Averages never give an accurate picture. When you “release” a bunch of employees just make sure they are all low paid individuals. That way the average and mean will increase, and, only the little guy gets hurt!

October 23, 2013 at 6:41 pm
(44) kim says:

I had 6 days pay stolen from me this year thanks to sequestor and I am a gs 12. I have not had a cola in 3 years and I took an 8% pay cut when i moved across country. I am making the same amount I made 7 years ago now. Dont forget food, gas and healthcare have skyrocketed the last 7 years so i am worse off now than I was 6 years ago. I graduated top of my class in college and I work in IT Contract management. I could make 6 figures in the private sector and if i am furlough again I am gone.

December 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm
(45) IT Security Analyst says:

Since the pay freeze has been in place, I was forced to take leave without pay, medical and retirement contribution increase and been given more work than I could possible do because of down sizing. I am counting down the days until I can retire at the minimium retirement age. I already have a tentative offer 50% higher than I am currently making with a much better benifits plan. I’m even vested in their retirement after 5 years.

I work for the military, where I supervise 1 Junior Officer, 2 Senior Enslisted and 4 Contractors. My annual net pay with our wonderful medical benifits (Lol) is over $2,000 less that the lowest paid person who works for me and I will have the least amount in retirement also. Something is going to have to happen soon!!!

December 17, 2013 at 1:39 am
(46) jason says:

Its a bunch of bull that they say feds make more than private sector. We recently decided to not renew our contracts with several companies and were instead going to hire the workers as civil service. About 50% refused because they could not afford such a massive pay cut. The ones that did come over are now having a hard time making ends meet. As civil servants we definately are paid less than private sector. How does anyone expect to get talented workers when the pay keeps going down? Are we going to pay CDC vaccine researchers $9/hr? If you dont pay workers what they are worth, you loose them.

March 20, 2014 at 2:47 pm
(47) AK WGer says:

WG workers got nothing of the “1% raise” in fact nothing for the last four years and counting …………. So much for EO’s, and actions to disseminate to all “blue collar workers”,another swing and a miss

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