The state and local workforce: analysis and forecast.

Author:Franzel, Joshua
Position:Management & Careers

The state and local workforce has changed significantly over the past decade--change that has been reflected in the size of the public labor force, the compensation packages provided to employees, and the ability of governments to manage their talent pipelines. Against this backdrop, a rebounding U.S. economy, decreasing overall unemployment levels, and changing public sector demographics will challenge governments' recruitment and retention in 2015 and beyond. For each of the past six years, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) has surveyed members of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) and National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE) on workforce issues, compensation changes, and recruitment and retirement trends related to their members' governments. Highlighting recent workforce survey findings, this article will provide an overview of the size of the state and local workforce, wage and benefit considerations, and workforce management issues.


Over the past decade (2005-2014), the state government workforce has decreased by 2 percent, and the local government workforce has decreased by 3 percent. For the most part, these decreases have occurred across industries, including state hospitals (-1 percent), state general administration (-6 percent), local government education (-3 percent), local government utilities (-3 percent), local hospitals (-1 percent), and local government general administration (-4 percent). (1) Outliers include areas such as state education, which experienced a 2 percent increase in employment levels, and local government transportation, which had an increase of 9 percent. These increases were likely due to increased enrollments in higher education during the economic downturn of 2008-2009, federal stimulus, and state and local projects related to transportation.

In part, these numbers are the result of policies that states and localities implemented in the wake of the Great Recession to cope with lost revenue from property, sales, income taxes, and other taxes and fees. In the 2009 Workforce Survey, when state and local human resource executives were asked which workforce changes their governments had implemented in response to the economic downturn, answers included hiring freezes (67 percent), layoffs (41 percent), and furloughs (30 percent). As the economy has improved and government revenues...

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