Hiring & Recruiting

State and Local Government Hiring Trends Over the Past 10 Years

Since the 2008–2009 recession—and with the unemployment hovering around 3.9%—it should come as no surprise that state and local government hiring has seen an increase over the past 10 years. According to the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SGLE), there are a number of ways state and local governments are recruiting hard to fill positions.


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New research released by the SGLE shows that there are a number of government positions that are hard to fill. According to 15% of SGLE survey respondents, these hard-to-fill positions include: policing, engineering, network administration, emergency dispatch, accounting, skilled trades, and other information technology positions.

Recruiting and Retention

Recruiting workers remains a top priority for most government employers, as 82% report staff recruitment and retention to be the number one priority, and 80% report that employee morale is equally as important as recruiting workers.

The SGLE looked at the data over the past 10 years and found that in 2012, those concerns were cited by 39% and 67%, respectively—with the top concern at the time being the public perception of government workers (74%). The SGLE notes that although this last category might seem like a vain concern, such perceptions can impact the ability to attract talented new job candidates into the public service profession.

According to the research, to recruit and retain a skilled workforce, more than 45% report offering flexible scheduling or flexible work hours, 65% support employee development and training reimbursement, 37% are hosting wellness programs or on-site fitness facilities, and 34% provide some form of paid family leave.

Gig Workers

Since 2009, roles that were hard to fill then are still hard to fill now. The SGLE reports that policing, engineering, and firefighting continue to be hard-to-fill positions. In order to find talent to fill the void, government agencies have gotten creative in how they’re seeking talent.

Respondents say they’ve turned to the gig economy to attract workers for these hard-to-fill positions. However, for policing roles, you obviously can’t hire a part-time cop or one who telecommutes.

Other roles that can’t be filled by gig workers include: emergency dispatchers, corrections officers, and firefighters, among others. Respondents report hiring challenges in public safety, technical, and healthcare positions, as well as those that require specialized training such as a commercial driver’s license or experience in a skilled trade. On the flip side to all this, government agencies are reporting that for office and administrative roles, the gig economy has helped tremendously in filling the void.

According to the research, positions filled via the gig economy may include those that have a high degree of independent contractors available (7% support and 5% network administration) or that lend themselves to temporary services (office/administrative support, 20%; accounting, 9%; maintenance work/labor, 12%) or consulting (engineering and legal services, 5% each).

Recruiting Methods

Just like private employers, state and local government agencies are using a variety of methods to recruit workers. Such methods include:

  • Online job advertisement: 84%
  • Employee referrals: 51%
  • Government websites: 49%
  • Social media: 46%
  • Job fairs: 21%
  • Internships/apprenticeships: 20%
  • State/local newspaper: 19%

Interestingly, 4% of state and local governments report using video campaigns as a method to recruiting workers. As Elena Valentine—CEO of Skill Scout—discussed at RecruitCon2018, video job descriptions and postings are the wave of the future, so it’s nice to see that even state and local governments are realizing this.

Future of Work

When looking ahead to the future of government work, survey respondents say that with the increase of retiring workers, recruiting and hiring will become an even bigger challenge, cited by 82% of respondents.

However, according to the research, the importance of succession planning increased from 51% to 80% from 2012 to 2015 but decreased to 64% in 2018 (with an additional 30% indicating it was “somewhat important”). Much like private employers that are also faced with an aging workforce, government agencies will benefit in the long run by implementing strategies (such as telecommuting) to help attract and retain workers.

For more information on this survey report, click here.