Oklahoma shed more than 2,000 state employees between 2010 and 2011, a 3.1 percent drop that is one of the biggest declines in the nation, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey.
The state's full-time equivalent employment dropped from 70,501 to 68,339, according to the 2011 Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll.
Full-time equivalent figures are devised by adding total full-time employees to the full-time equivalency hours of part-time workers.
The state's part-time employment roster actually increased 0.9 percent from 26,828 to 27,060 during the same time period, according to the survey.
Overall, the state reduced its monthly payroll by $4.2 million over the course of the year, a 1.6 percent decrease.
Louisiana led all states with a 4.9 percent state employment decline, followed by Massachusetts with 3.5 percent, New Jersey with 3.4 percent and Oklahoma.
Alex Weintz, communications director for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's office, said the cutbacks came as the state worked to overcome a $500 million budget shortfall.
Appropriation cuts were incorporated on a line-item basis by individual state offices, and for some cutting personnel was the most effective way to reduce spending.
“We are intentionally working with agencies to flatten management structures to get more dollars out of administration and into the front lines of providing public service,” Weintz said.
“In that sense, this news is expected and we expect government services to be delivered at a high quality regardless of the loss of some state employees.”
In some cases that meant consolidating staff and departments and pushing services to the private sector, he said.
Sterling Zearley, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said maintaining the quality of services is a challenge for agencies that have been understaffed for years, such as the Corrections Department and the Department of Human Services. It's been difficult to recruit and retain employees at those agencies, he said.
“It's a combination of the low salaries and it's just hard jobs anyway ... and the type of individuals they have to deal with,” Zearley said. “Those services still have to be provided.”
With a 27 percent reduction from 2010-11, state hospital services experienced the most significant cuts in full-time equivalent employees.
Hospital services cut its monthly payroll during that time by 20.4 percent.
The number of state employees providing public welfare services was cut by 8.5 percent, with an annual payroll deduction of 10.2 percent.
Despite slight cuts to primary/secondary education (0.7 percent) and higher education (0.2 percent), the state's monthly payroll for employees providing each of those services increased by 0.9 percent and 1.7 percent respectively.
Social service administration was the only state government function in Oklahoma that increased both its employee roster and payroll during that time.
Nationwide, the number of full-time equivalent employees working for state and local governments was reduced by 1.4 percent to 16.4 million, but total monthly payroll from March 2010-2011 increased by 2 percent.
The majority of nationwide reductions were in education (8.9 million), followed by hospital employees, law enforcement officers and corrections officers.
The survey shows local governments in Oklahoma also reduced full-time employee rosters by .7 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Contributing: Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau