State and Local Government Workforce: 2020 Survey

April 1, 2020

Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE)

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE), in partnership with the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) and the National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE), has been surveying human resources directors in state and local governments since 2009. This year’s survey continues many of the questions from that original survey, with additional detail around emerging issues such as flexible workplace policies, positions that are difficult to fill, and the reasons for separation as discussed in exit interviews.

This year’s survey was conducted from February 27 to April 7, 2020, with a total of 222 respondents. The growing scale of the COVID-19 pandemic during this time meant that a number of jurisdictions were dealing with changed working conditions, from office closures to additional time spent on continuity of operations decisions around essential services. Responses to the survey generally reflect activity in the organization over the past year, though several jurisdictions cited very recent actions to institute furloughs, hiring freezes, or telecommuting in response to the virus. While the primary impact on government revenues, services, and personnel will be in 2020 and beyond, a handful of respondents referenced COVID-19 in the context of recent cutbacks or changes in telework policies.

Of the survey respondents, 77 percent were from local governments and 17 percent were from state governments. Overall, the data show a continuation of recent trends, with a majority of governments hiring employees (77 percent) and very few instituting layoffs or furloughs (5 and 3 percent, respectively).  Regarding recruitment, six positions were identified as hard to fill by more than 20 percent of respondents, with engineers, information technology employees, police officers and registered nurses reported by more than half of respondents as having fewer qualified applicants than positions available. And while most retirement and health plans did not undergo changes in the past year, there continue to be adjustments, primarily to the cost shares borne by employers, employees, or retirees.

SLGE will continue to track these and related issues, both as part of this survey series and related polling of state and local government employees being undertaken in collaboration with ICMA-RC. SLGE gratefully acknowledges the participation of IPMA-HR and NASPE in such research, as well as the dedication of state and local government employees during these extraordinary circumstances.


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