New research finds that state and local governments continue to face challenges filling a wide array of positions. Policing, engineering, maintenance work/labor, skilled trades, dispatch, and information technology/network top the list of positions hardest to fill. The results also indicate that top workforce issues for state and local governments are competitive compensation packages (87 percent), recruitment and retention of qualified workers (87 percent), employee morale (86 percent), employee engagement (84 percent) and leadership development (74 percent).

These findings are contained in a new research report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE), State and Local Government Workforce: 2019 Survey, available here.

SLGE will hold a webinar on Wednesday, August 14, 2019, at 1:00 PM ET to review the findings and respond to questions. Register at no charge here.

“Recruitment, retention and compensation remain at the forefront of workforce issues facing state and local governments,” said Gerald Young, SLGE senior research associate and lead analyst of the new study. “These issues are further complicated for government leaders given the tight labor market and longer-term employment projections. State and local workforces have a projected growth of 3.8 percent for state employees and 7.4 percent for local employees from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” he explained.

The gig economy is a particular focus of this new survey, with 20 percent of jurisdictions indicating that they are filling more than one percent of their total workforce needs via the gig economy. Administrative, accounting and IT support are the positions most commonly filled by gig workers. The study also measured the impact of hiring gig workers on the organization as a whole in areas such as management flexibility and employee morale.

The report also finds that benefits continue to a be a strength for state and local governments, with 88 percent indicating their benefits are competitive with the labor market. At the same time, some jurisdictions are modifying benefits. For example, 36 percent of state and local governments have shifted more healthcare costs from the employer to employees, 28 percent have implemented wellness programs, and 11 percent have moved employees to high deductible plans with health savings accounts. Regarding retirement benefits, 12 percent have increased employee contributions, 11 percent have decreased pension benefits, and nine percent have increased pension eligibility requirements.

Since 2009, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence has partnered with the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) and the National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE) to conduct an annual study on state and local workforce issues.

“This survey reveals that recruitment and retention of qualified employees remain significant challenges for state and local governments at a time when the demand for workers is projected to increase,” said Neil Reichenberg, IPMA-HR executive director. “This means that state and local governments must continue to be innovative in order to attract and retain workers who can deliver critical public services,” he said.

Leslie Scott, NASPE executive director, said, “Offering competitive compensation is an ongoing challenge for state and local governments. To deal with this issue, leaders must consider other approaches to meet their human capital needs – strategies like delivering meaningful employee development programs, providing effective onboarding, and offering flexible schedules and paid family leave.”

This research was conducted as an online survey from March 20 through June 3, 2019 by SLGE. The results are based upon the responses of 335 public human resource professionals who are members of IPMA-HR and/or NASPE.

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) helps local and state governments become knowledgeable and competitive employers so they can attract and retain a talented and committed workforce. SLGE identifies leading practices and conducts research on public sector retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, and labor force development.