CT’s Local Government Workforce Shrinks 7.4% in Past Decade; 10th Largest Reduction in US from Employment Peak

Connecticut’s local municipal workforce has been shrinking for the past decade, and had been reduced 7.4 percent by 2015 when compared with the peak employment year of 2005, according to a new analysis by Governing magazine.  The drop in local government employment is the 10th largest in the country by percentage of workforce, when peak employment levels were compared with 2015 numbers. “Going on nearly a decade since the start of the recession, localities in many parts of the country have since restored public payrolls to prior levels. But some still employ far fewer workers than they did before the downturn,” Governing reported.

Governing compared each state's pre-2010 peak aggregate totals to the latest 2015 data, excluding the education sector.  In all, the magazine reported, local governments in 26 states had yet to see payroll expenditures return to prior levels when adjusted for inflation. Similarly, local public employment remains below previous highs in most states and is down 3.5 percent nationally from 2008.

The steepest declines in local government payrolls, when 2015 data was compared with the peak pre-recession year, came in Delaware (-20.5% from 2007), Michigan (-18.2% from 2003), Arizona (-17.1% from 2008), Rhode Island (-16.5% from 2003), Massachusetts (-14.4% from 2008), Nevada (-14.1% from 2009), Florida (-11.0% from 2008), Indiana (-8.8% from 2008), New Jersey (-8.3% from 2009) and Connecticut (-7.4% from 2005).

Where localities chose to make payroll cuts has varied, according to the analysis, but a number of patterns were pointed out, based on Census data.  When national employment estimates were compared with 2008 levels, non-sworn police employees sustained the single largest reduction of any major category of workers, the analysis indicated. Governing suggested the reductions were likely a result of police departments trimming civilian staff to maintain the size of police forces on the streets. Nationally, the number of police and firefighters were down 2.6 percent from 2008 while all other areas of local government, excluding education and hospitals, experienced a larger 4.5 percent decline.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico recorded the biggest increases in noneducation payrolls since the recession began in 2008-2009.  Half the states showed an increase in local government payrolls, and despite the generally slow recovery across many regions of the country, U.S. local government payroll spending overall showed a slight three  percent nationwide uptick between 2014 and 2015, according to the analysis.