New Jersey’s government workforce shrinking

New Jersey saw the second largest year over year drop in government employees of any state in the nation, according to federal employment data released Friday.

The number of government workers in the state dropped by more than 22,000 between February 2010 and February 2011, a seasonally adjusted 3.6 percent decline that was second only to South Carolina, which saw its government workforce shrink by 3.75 percent.

With 623,200 government workers, New Jersey ranked 11th in the size of its public sector work force last month.  That number is in line with the state’s population, which also ranks 11th in the nation.  In all, one in every six working New Jerseyans was employed in the government sector, about even with other states with similar populations.

New Jersey League of Municipalities Executive Director Bill Dressel said that given the cuts local mayors have been forced to make, he’s not surprised by the drop.

“That verifies what we have been saying for the past year,” said Dressel. “That number coincides directly with the cuts in state aid, the drop in real estate values and the skyrocketing number of tax appeals,” Dressel said.

The 2 percent cap on tax levy increases imposed by the Legislature has caused much of the drop in government employees, Dressel said, as mayors have been forced to cut services – and the employees who provide them – to stay within the cap.  Couple that with the political atmosphere created by a governor who has continually attacked government as bloated and mayors have little choice but to cut, he explained.

“What has changed is that traditionally it’s been the white-collar government workers who have been cut, but in this past year we’re seeing dramatic cuts in fire and police. That’s something we have never witnessed before in the history of the state,” he said.

A spokesman for the governor did not return an email seeking comment on the staffing cuts.

New Jersey’s government workforce shrinking