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Biden triggers hefty pay raise for federal workers

Thanks to inflation, raise would be highest since the Carter administration

President Joe Biden is authorizing a 5.2 percent federal worker pay raise.
President Joe Biden is authorizing a 5.2 percent federal worker pay raise. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Joe Biden submitted the paperwork to move forward with what averages out to a 5.2 percent federal pay increase next year.

The president notified Congress of his intent to implement a previously announced alternative pay schedule for many federal civilian workers in 2024, in line with his budget request earlier this year.

“Specifically, I have determined that for 2024, the across-the-board base pay increase will be 4.7 percent and locality pay increases will average 0.5 percent, resulting in an overall average increase of 5.2 percent for civilian Federal employees, consistent with the assumption in my 2024 Budget,” Biden wrote in letters to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Vice President Kamala Harris Thursday.

The deadline for presidents to signal the following year’s intended compensation adjustment is the end of August. Following that letter, the president must issue an executive order by the end of December implementing the raise. If those steps aren’t taken, raises can skyrocket under an alternative locality pay formula.

If it isn’t blocked or altered by Congress through the appropriations process, the pay raise would be the largest since 1981, when President Jimmy Carter authorized a 9.1 percent raise during that period of high inflation.

The last consumer price index reading before Carter’s August 1980 order, when he was in the throes of a tough campaign against Ronald Reagan, showed prices had risen 14.3 percent on average over the prior year.

Inflation recently has been on a downswing, declining from 9.1 percent in June 2022 to 3 percent in June 2023, though it turned up again slightly in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Federal salaries are allocated in multiple buckets, with base pay applying across the board and additional pay generally provided based on the cost of living in the location of the job.

“We must attract, recruit, and retain a skilled workforce with fair compensation in order to keep our Government running, deliver services, and meet our Nation’s challenges today and tomorrow,” Biden wrote. “This alternative pay plan decision will continue to allow the Federal Government to employ a well‑qualified Federal workforce on behalf of the American people, keeping pace with prior wage growth in the labor market.”

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