State and Local Government Workforce: 2018 Data and 10-Year Trends

May 31, 2018

Center for State and Local Government Excellence

Since 2009, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence has been conducting surveys on workforce issues facing state and local employers. This report presents both the data from the 2018 survey and comparisons to historical data.

Overall, state and local governments report low incidence of negative employment actions, down significantly from the recessionary levels seen in 2009. For instance, hiring freezes and layoffs, reported in 2009 by 68 percent and 42 percent, respectively, were both reported by 8 percent in 2018. Pay cuts were reported by 9 percent in 2009 and by 1 percent in 2018. While fewer cutbacks might mean a more stable workforce, with current low unemployment rates, there are a wide array of positions reported as being hard to fill. Over 15 percent cite policing, engineering, network administration, emergency dispatch, accounting, skilled trades, and other information technology positions as being a challenge. Looking at voluntary separations, 44 percent report that retirements in the most recently completed year were higher than the year before, and the share of retirement eligible employees postponing their retirement date has fallen by more than half since 2009 (from 44 to 21 percent).

To recruit and retain a skilled workforce, more than 45 percent report offering flexible scheduling or flexible work hours, 65 percent support employee development and training reimbursement, 37 percent are hosting wellness programs or on-site fitness facilities, and 34 percent provide some form of paid family leave. Benefit changes continue to be pursued, although the share of governments making retirement plan changes has decreased from 41 to 16 percent. Looking at individual types of benefit changes, increases in employee contributions for health (32 percent) or retirement (4 percent) are the most common. While the share increasing employee retirement contributions in 2018 may appear small, the percentages increasing those cost-shares in 2012 (19 percent among new employees; 17 percent among current employees) and 2015 (16 percent among new employees; 15 percent among current employees) may indicate that planned changes had already been completed. Overall, only 25 percent feel their employees are financially prepared for retirement, with 47 percent sponsoring financial literacy programs to help those employees plan.

Among the top workforce priorities, 82 percent report staff recruitment and retention, with employee morale close behind at 80 percent. In 2012, those concerns were cited by 39 and 67 percent, respectively, with the top concern at the time being the public perception of government workers (74 percent). While this last category might seem a vain concern, such perceptions can impact the ability to attract talented new job candidates into the public service profession.

The online survey was conducted from March 22 to April 16, 2018 by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence ( with 337 public human resource professionals submitting responses. All bar and pie charts in this report are for 2018 data. Time series line graphs display comparisons to prior surveys.

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