Public Service Jobs Mainstay of Many Local Economies

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In tough economic times when governments become strapped for operating revenue, the public – and their representatives – often focus on public employees during debates over tax increases and spending cuts.

Higher-than-average government salaries draw quick attention, but advanced education and experience is required for many government jobs that dictate those salaries. Some government technical or financial jobs require master’s degrees or doctorates.

At the same time, communities are always looking for more higher-paying jobs to fuel their local economies – jobs like those many government workers hold down. These workers help the local economy by spending their paychecks in the community, although increased Internet sales have siphoned off some of that local activity.

Government jobs tend to have a higher percentage of college graduates than the economy overall, which holds true in Idaho and across most of the south central part of the state.

When government budgets are on the verge of being cut, policy makers consider whether these jobs are important or a drain on taxpayers. The workers with these jobs include not just firefighters and police but also teachers, food and drug monitors, consumer protection workers and inspectors of all kinds. These jobs are considered important to society, and many require skills, experience, training and education.

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Private enterprise is competing for these same skill sets without the type of budgetary constraints governments face, and because they are private businesses, they are presumed to be operating well and efficiently. But there are always missteps in reading the market, employers without integrity and workers operating without proper oversight in the private and public sectors.

Anecdotally, most government workers find their jobs interesting and rewarding with pay generally below and benefits generally above those offered by private enterprise. The result is they tend to stay in their government jobs longer than workers in the private sector stay in theirs.

Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 735-2500 ext. 3639

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This article originally appeared in the September issue of the Idaho Department of Labor’s monthly economic and employment newsletter. Interested in reading more articles like this? Please send an email to Donna.Corn@labor.idaho.gov to subscribe to the newsletter.