Read the full report here: State and Local Employment in New York, Cut in the Pandemic, Has Been Down for a Decade

State and local government employment is vital to our economy and our quality of life. State and local governments—and their employees—exist because New Yorkers have decided over generations that we need people who are dedicated and trained to teach our children, clean our streets, protect our communities, maintain our highways and bridges, and perform hundreds of other jobs.

The number of public employees in New York fell substantially during the pandemic, by an annual average of over 55,000 from 2019 to 2020. Some of this may have been early retirement by workers—teachers, for example—whose jobs put them in Covid danger; some may have been layoffs because of lower public needs when fewer people were out and about; some may have been cutbacks in response to lower local tax collections.

Now that we know that it looks like New York State will be in better fiscal shape for the next few years, we can expect that the state, counties, municipalities, and school districts will begin filling the personnel gaps left by the Pandemic.

But replacing those 55,000 workers is not enough. While the state population in 2020 was about the same as it was in 2010 (after rising until 2017 and then falling), the number of state and local employees in 2020 was about 57,000 lower than a decade earlier. We suggest that the best way to evaluate the minimum number of public employees needed is to think of the number of people they need to serve; if there are fewer state and local workers relative to the population, services of all kinds will be weaker. Figure one shows the history of this measure from 2010 through 2020.

There are other reasons that New Yorkers deserve stronger hiring than just getting back to the 2019 or 2010 employee count. We don’t want just the same services; we want smaller class sizes, shorter lines at the DMV, quicker emergency response and pothole remediation. While there may be some technological improvements that help with needed efficiency, nothing can replace enough personnel…

By Brent Kramer, PhD, Senior Economist, Fiscal Policy Institute

Read the Full Report here: State and Local Employment in New York, Cut in the Pandemic, Has Been Down for a Decade