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Feds Don’t Think a 1.9 Percent Pay Raise Would Be Enough to Attract Talent

Although uncertainty surrounds whether workers will receive a raise next year, "It’s better than nothing," one employee quipped in response to a poll.

A plurality of civilian federal employees reported in a new poll that they would be satisfied with the Senate’s proposed 1.9 percent pay increase in 2019. But nearly half said they believed the plan would not improve agencies’ competitiveness in the job market.

A flash poll conducted last week by the Government Business Council, the research arm of Government Executive Media Group, found that 41 percent of federal workers would be satisfied or very satisfied with a 1.9 percent pay raise next year. Another 31 percent said they would be dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, while 22 percent were neutral on the proposal.

On August 1, the Senate voted unanimously to approve a $154.2 billion multi-agency spending package for fiscal 2019 that included the pay raise proposal. But the increase’s fate is far from certain. Last month, the House passed a similar package that omitted any pay adjustment for federal workers, effectively endorsing President Trump’s proposed pay freeze for civilian employees. And the White House issued a statement last month opposing the Senate’s plan.

Although many federal employees welcomed the news that they could receive a raise in 2019, few thought the measure would improve agencies’ ability to recruit new employees. Only 18 percent of poll respondents said they thought a 1.9 percent pay raise would be effective or very effective in increasing the federal government’s competitiveness in the labor market, compared to 47 percent of workers who said it would be ineffective or very ineffective. Thirty-six percent of respondents said it would have no effect.

Similarly, fully 78 percent of federal workers said the pay raise would have no impact on their decision to remain in or leave the federal sector.

“Any increase is welcome, but 1.9 percent doesn’t even touch how much we’ve lost in the Obama years, and private sectors are now paying much more for the same work level,” one respondent wrote. “The only way we attract workers is because there are still too many companies afraid to hire and a lot of over-educated, no-experience people that start with the feds and then go private and make more.”

Another worker lamented that the proposed raise would make little impact on their regular pay check.

“While I am grateful for the 1.9 percent raise, after taxes that is maybe $20 or less per pay period,” that worker wrote. “Therefore it has little to no impact on my life. I would rather receive a 3 to 5 percent increase, which would be visible to the average worker, even if we received it every two to three years.”

The flash poll was conducted from August 8 until August 10. There were 147 respondents, all of whom were federal employees. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 8 percent.