Survey Signals Possible Public-Sector Hiring Rebound

State and local governments may start to hire, but employment remains below pre-recession levels.
by | February 13, 2013 AT 7:00 PM

The employment outlook for state and local governments appears to be brighter this year after many made deep cuts to their workforce, a survey released this week finds.

The International Public Management Association for Human Resources reports more governments expect to fill new positions in fiscal year 2013, while far fewer plan to eliminate jobs than in years past. But while the survey results signal an upward hiring trend, staffing still remains below pre-recession levels.

Nearly 61 percent of survey respondents expected to hire (for new positions, not net employment) this fiscal year, up from 55 percent in fiscal 2012 and 48 percent in fiscal 2011. About 35 percent planned to hire public safety positions, which typically account for at least half of local government payrolls. Another 24 percent expected to fill public works jobs and 18 percent planned to add finance or management positions.

The association surveyed more than 350 representatives of public agencies, mostly in state and local governments, which made up 88 percent of respondents.

The results also point to a sharp reduction in officials expecting job reductions in fiscal 2013. Only 11 percent of survey respondents foresee cuts, down from 22 percent a year ago. Of those anticipating job losses this year, two-thirds report cuts will be minor, amounting to less than 1 percent of the workforce.

The following chart illustrates percentages of survey participants expecting job reductions in the group's past annual employment outlook surveys:

The responses mirror the Labor Department’s government employment estimates, which indicate job cuts reached a peak in 2010 and then again in 2011.

It’s too early to say whether the survey’s encouraging news will come to fruition this year, though. So far, Labor Department state and local government employment estimates haven’t fluctuated much in recent months. (Refer to our chart of monthly public sector employment estimates)