Is Public Sector Work Declining? And How Do We Fix It?

The public sector is facing a staffing crisis as the United States government is struggling to attract and retain employees.

While government employment is increasing, it still remains far below pre-pandemic levels by about 376k jobs–a considerable dip that massively impacts day-to-day functioning. Ultimately, the government has a lot of work to do to attract and retain employees.

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A new report from the MissionSquare Research Institute, a nonprofit that studies government workforce issues, found that most public sector employees find their work fulfilling and enjoy the benefits provided. More than half of the respondents reported feeling satisfied with their current employer and 66% said morale at work was high. Job security, work satisfaction and retirement benefits were listed as the top factors that attracted employees to their jobs. For employees under 40, supervisors that enable an excellent work-life balance and potential for career advancement were the top reasons for taking positions in the public sector. However, now nearly 60% of respondents report that they're thinking about leaving their jobs, up from about 52% the year before. This is primarily due to burnout.

The report also found that many public sector employees have difficulty paying their monthly bills and feel financially insecure. More than a third of respondents said they have trouble paying their bills month-to-month and nearly 30% said debt is one of their biggest problems. More than 60% were worried about inflation impeding their cost of living. Women reported higher rates of feeling financially insecure and were not confident they'd be able to retire when they wanted compared to their male counterparts.

The majority of respondents thought that increasing salaries is the best way to retain employees. Many respondents also suggested offering remote work and investing in more employee engagement to emphasize respect and communication.