According to research from the National League of Cities, between March 2020 and March 2022, local government employment declined by more than 300,000 workers. This labor shortage threatens municipalities’ abilities to perform essential functions and deliver services to residents. To address this shortage, action is necessary from city leaders to make sure that the appropriate levels of staff are secured and that talented staff who have unique skills and experience are retained. Some cities are leveraging American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help mitigate staffing shortages, but these funds are limited and only accessible for a short time. It remains uncertain whether general operating budget levels will return to allow for staff hired with ARPA funds to continue employment after the funds have been spent.
Strategies to Consider
By employing residents, municipalities can provide both a job and a pathway to upward economic mobility through the benefits and opportunities offered to the worker. Cities must review their benefits structure often to ensure that they are attracting new talent and meeting the needs of existing employees. To stay competitive as an employer, they also should maintain awareness of private and nonprofit sector benefit trends that could push talent to leave municipal service.
Like any employer, municipal governments must find a balance between the benefits that they can offer their employees and the cost of those benefits. They can be creative in their benefit packages that help them attract and retain talent and increase the economic mobility of their staff. They can share their strategies with other employers in their community to help strengthen supports that other workers may receive and thereby the upward economic mobility of the broader workforce.
The following forthcoming case studies will be available soon for municipalities interested in strengthening their municipal workforce:
- Cities in Action: Living Wages for Municipal Staff
- Cities in Action: Increasing Paid Time Off
- Cities in Action: Expanding Access to Apprenticeships
- Cities in Action: Increasing Access to, and Utilization of, Financial Products
Contacting the NLC Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment (EOFE) Team
Reach out to us for more information about advancing equitable economic mobility or to discuss strategies that can address the challenges your community is facing.