Census: Oklahoma's state employee decline ranks among nation's largest

Oklahoma lost the equivalent of more than 2,000 employees between 2010 to 2011.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: August 27, 2012
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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.

Agency cuts

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.

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