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The Federal Jobs Report: What’s Happening In States and Localities?

On the morning of April 1, 2022, the New York Times gleefully reported this very long sentence about the happy news from the Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report. “A continued torrent of consumer demand, paired with an emerging atmosphere of normalcy as coronavirus caseloads and health restrictions fade away, led to a burst of new jobs last month, giving reason for optimism despite the year’s increasingly uncertain economic outlook.

The Times piece didn’t, however, address itself to jobs in state and local government which we anticipated would be somewhat different.

So, this morning we turned to Joshua Franzel, Managing Director of MissionSquare Research Institute, formerly the Center for State and Local Government Excellence at ICMA-RC. Franzel, a leading authority on government job statistics, helped fill us in on that part of the picture.

Here are the highlights from our conversation with him (which took place about an hour before we posted this B&G Report).

  • “When you step back and look at the point when the public health emergency was declared and then look at today’s numbers that were released from March, overall, the state and local employment levels are still down 3.6 percent. That equates to about 729,000 jobs.”

  • "From a state and local perspective, it really is a mixed picture. You see with the new March numbers that came out this morning that state government employment actually is trending downward. It followed a recent peak in February 2020, right before the pandemic started. It began to recover and then peaked once more in June of 2021. But since June of 2021, it’s continued to trend downward.”

  • “On the local side the news is a bit better in terms of the overall number of local government positions. They continue to increase, though they’re still not anywhere close to where they had peaked in February of 2020. But when you peel back the layers of the onion, a lot of that increase was from local education, where the positions needed to be filled. But when you exclude education, those positions are on a downward trend. This includes transportation and hospitals.”

  • We need to focus on the quit rate which has been consistently high. Retirements were at a 20 year high in the summer of 2020 and they have continued to be almost twice the typical rates since then, even though you are seeing a growing number of efforts in state and local governments to increase compensation, a topic I read about in your piece in Route Fifty this morning. Most governments now are in a very optimal position to provide either one-time increases or longer-term increases.”

  • (As to the future), “I think overall there’s really no way to predict it. States and localities are still facing positions that need to be filled to provide essential services, and I do think these efforts will continue to bear fruit. But we’re also dealing with demographic changes of an aging population and we’re going to see an uptick in retirements which just puts more pressure on employers of all sizes and sectors to try even harder to recruit talent into the workforces.”


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