Federal employees awaiting word from President Joe Biden about pay raises for next year got it on Wednesday.

In a customary letter to Congress, Biden declared his intent to submit an overall average increase of 4.6% for civilian federal employees, consistent with estimations in the 2023 budget.

This includes an across-the-board base pay increase of 4.1% and a locality pay average increase of 0.5%. Unless Congress raises an issue, Biden’s rate will be final upon issuing an executive order and will go into effect on Jan. 1.

“This alternative pay plan decision will allow the federal government to better compete in the labor market to attract and retain a well‑qualified federal workforce,” said Biden.

The federal budget proposal unveiled by the White House in March included an average pay increase of 4.6% for civilian federal workers, matching a planned military pay raise. This figure would mark the largest annual increase for both troops and civilian workers in 20 years, Military Times previously reported.

“As Americans face unprecedented price increases for food, fuel, housing and other staples, this pay raise demonstrates an understanding of the value of these hard-working civil servants and the jobs they do, as well as displays the administration’s commitment to recruitment and retention of talented federal employees,” said Ken Thomas, national president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, in a statement to Federal Times.

By law, federal employees’ salaries are set at a level “equitable and comparable” with similar levels of work in the private sector, unless the president proposes alternative federal pay rates, which he did this week just ahead of Labor Day.

Normally, under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990, law requires an adjustment across the board and for locality pay each year. However, the president has authority to circumvent the automatic rate set by the Pay Agent, which includes the directors of the White House Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management, as well as the secretary of labor.

Some have said rising costs of living and private sector wages warrant an even larger raise.

“We will continue to urge Congress and the administration to consider changing economic conditions and the 22.47 percent pay gap between federal employees and their private sector counterparts before making any final decisions on the 2023 federal pay increase,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement.

Last year, President Biden exercised this authority to propose his own rate and set an overall 2.7% pay raise for federal workers.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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