The Great Resignations Impact on Local Government: Scores of workers are quitting and governments are scrambling to adapt.

AuthorFarmer, Liz

* The summer of 2021 brought on the Great Resignation with scores of Americans quitting their jobs--including in local government. Driven by COVID-fatigue, a desire for better pay, and employee retirements, more people have left state and local government in the last two years than ever before, leaving a dearth of willing and qualified people to take their place.

While government employment has endured setbacks during recessions, what's happening now goes beyond that. It has the potential to permanently reshape the future of public sector work.

"This type of exodus isn't just us, it's every county in the region," said Berke Attila, the human resources director for Montgomery County, Maryland. "The succession planning just is not where it needs to be to deal with this type of 'Big Quit.'"


State and local government employment peaked at nearly 20 million workers until the onset of the pandemic resulted in the sector losing 1.5 million jobs. About 607,000 positions have come back, but state and local governments are still 928,000 below where they were before the COVID-19 crisis hit. And since this summer, progress hasn't just stalled--employment is starting to reverse.

The onset of the pandemic accelerated what had been a steady increase in the rate of people leaving state and local government over the last decade. Annual quit rates increased from 6.1 percent in 2010 to 9.7 percent in 2016, then seemed to stabilize. But in 2020, that shot up to a record 11.7 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Separations, which includes retirements, shows how voluntary quits fit into the overall picture. After peaking in the early months of the pandemic, the rate of separations stabilized in late 2020. But that changed in 2021, with the monthly rate more than doubling between April and August. It's contrary to what many observers expected to happen after the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021 guaranteed billions in fiscal relief funds for states and localities.

While other sectors are also experiencing higher quit rates, only the government and the leisure and hospitality sectors are now consistently seeing actual declines in workers. What's more, 2021 marked the highest number and rate of state and local government job openings in the past 20 years, suggesting that governments are understaffed and unequipped to deal with additional losses. According to BLS data, it jumped from an...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT