As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s time for servicemembers to add another item to the list of things they’re grateful for: the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) report on the Employment Cost Index (ECI).
Why give thanks for this data point? MOAA closely tracks ECI reports because, by statute, they determine the following year’s military pay raise, barring intervention from Congress or the President. The ECI for private-sector wages and salaries for the last fiscal quarter of 2019 is 3.0%, which nearly matches last year’s 3.1% increase.
Last year’s figure set the benchmark for the pay raise included in both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. A conference committee is working to craft a compromise bill, which will all but certainly include that figure on its way to the president’s desk.
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The Oct. 31 ECI release will inform the FY 2021 NDAA, which would include the pay raise that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
The potential for back-to-back large increases offers some positive light in the midst of other issues facing military members and their families: privatized housing partnership problems, deteriorating barracks, black mold, child care problems, overstretched health care, persistent spouse unemployment and the ongoing fight to repeal the “widows tax,” to name a few.
The ECI is timely good news and continues a positive trend:
- ECI third quarter, 2008: 2.9%, informing a 3.4% military pay raise in the FY 2010 NDAA.
- ECI Q3 2009: 1.4%, FY 2011 raise: 1.4%
- ECI Q3 2010: 1.6%, FY 2012 raise: 1.6%
- ECI Q3 2011: 1.7%, FY 2013 raise: 1.7%
- ECI Q3 2012: 1.8%, FY 2014 raise: 1.0%
- ECI Q3 2013: 1.8%, FY 2015 raise: 1.0%
- ECI Q3 2014: 2.3%, FY 2016 raise: 1.3%
- ECI Q3 2015: 2.1%, FY 2017 raise: 2.1%
- ECI Q3 2016: 2.4%, FY 2018 raise: 2.4%
- ECI Q3 2017: 2.6%, FY 2019 raise: 2.6%
- ECI Q3 2018: 3.1%, FY 2020 raise: 3.1% (pending NDAA)
- ECI Q3 2019: 3.0%, FY 2021 raise: ?
Gratefulness is occasionally a difficult skill to master; there is often the thought of the next fight ingrained into the military psyche. But in the current environment, it is important to take a minute to be thankful when Congress gets something right. Military pay was not always tied to ECI, and it is not something we should take for granted.
For MOAA, the vigilance of monitoring the military pay and benefits environment never ceases. Maintaining military pay raise, by statute, tied to the ECI truly deserves to make our 2019 Thanksgiving list.