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Public sector job growth is increasing, but many vacancies still remain

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Public sector job growth is increasing, but many vacancies still remain
By AFSCME Staff ·

The public sector is entering 2024 with the wind at its back, but that doesn’t mean state and local officials can afford to slow down the pace of hiring. It’s important to keep investing in public services.

AFSCME’s analysis of the latest federal employment report shows the country gained 581,000 state and local government jobs in 2023, more than double the number in 2022. We ended the year with 22,000 more public service jobs above the February 2020 level — right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

That’s a big change from April 2020, when the economy lost some 20 million jobs, including 900,000 in the public sector alone. Today, the number of state and local government jobs — with the exception of public education — are above their pre-pandemic peaks.

Though federal figures show that state and local government jobs grew by 45,000 in December 2023, AFSCME affiliates around the country report large numbers of vacancies at their worksites. Federal data bear that out — there were 850,000 state and local government vacancies in November, but only 330,000 hires that month.

Our union launched Staff the Front Lines last year to advertise and help governments recruit and retain public service workers. This ambitious initiative continues to make progress, as AFSCME works with state and local governments around the county to fill job vacancies and invest more in public services.

Last month, AFSCME President Lee Saunders cautioned that the surge in public service job growth is encouraging but underscored that our union’s goal is not just to replace the jobs that the nation lost during the pandemic. As we reported in December, our union aims to restore public services to where they should be if public service employment had kept pace with population growth.

That’s a worthwhile goal for our union to focus on so our communities can receive the public services they need and deserve.

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