Hiring Trend Continues, as Do Struggles With Turnover


The Center for State and Local Government Excellence, an organization dedicated to research on state and local government employee compensation, health care, retirement, and other benefits, carried out their annual State and Local Government Workforce survey, in conjunction with the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, and National Association of State Personnel Executives. The survey was sent to 3681 members IPMA-HR and NASPE, with 283 respondents.

One of the results that stood out is that state and local governments reported a continued uptick in hiring. In 2017, 74 percent reported hiring new staff. This is slightly below the 77 percent reported in 2016, but well ahead of the 27 percent in 2013 and 66 percent reported in 2014. Conversely, only 10% of respondents stated their government implemented a hiring freeze in the past year, and only 7% implemented layoffs.

Another interesting finding resulted from the question “Looking broadly at your workforce, what generalizable skill sets are most needed in new hires?” ‘Technology’ was a popular response, with 51% of respondents citing it as a need. It is noteworthy that a ‘new economy’ skill like ‘Social Media’ only received an endorsement from 6% of respondents, while the top-two responses were tried and true workplace skill-sets: ‘Interpersonal’ and ‘Written Communication’ skills.

In regards to compensation, 93% of respondents felt their benefits offerings are competitive with the labor market, while only 64% felt similarly regarding wages. Those benefit offerings have been stable; only 17% of respondents stated their government made any changes to the retirement benefits offered to employees over the past year. Of those 17%, the most common change made was increasing employee contributions to pension plans for both current workers (9%) and new hires (11%). The full survey results for new hires and current workers are laid out side-by-side below.

Local Governments

While less than one-fifth of respondents claimed their government made changes to retirement benefits, half (51%) work in governments that made changes in the past year to health benefits for retirees and current workers. Over a third of this group (38%) reported a greater cost-shift to employees in the form of rising premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, while only 8% did the same for retirees. One quarter (24%) implemented wellness programs.

Governments continue to struggle with offering overall compensation packages, work environments, and other employment features to compete with the private sector. The most frequently cited issue going forward is the recruitment and retention of qualified personnel with needed skills for public service.

by Jeffrey L Garceau