Audit: Turnover for government workers up in 2013

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Associated Press

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 2:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 23 at 2:32 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An older workforce and an improving economy pushed Texas government employee turnover last year to levels not seen in Texas since 2000, according to a state audit.

According to a report from the State Auditor's Office, 17.6 percent of state workers left their jobs in 2013, up from a low of 14.4 percent during the depths of the economic recession in 2009. The fiscal 2013 jobs report, which was released Wednesday, did not examine the workforce in Texas' colleges and universities.

The biggest factor in the increased turnover was the state's aging workforce, the Austin American-Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/1jESOlG ). Nearly 4,900 employees retired in 2013, a 48 percent increase compared to 2009. According to the audit, at least 16,000 employees were eligible to retire last year. By 2020, 45,000 employees will be able to retire.

Employees who left for another job cited better pay or benefits as the top reason for their departure, and 47 percent of those surveyed reported they would be making at least $5,000 more.

The audit did not include an estimate of the cost of high employee turnover.

Employee groups say the state loses institutional knowledge and experience as older workers depart and little is being done to replace them.

"The state isn't doing anything that is effectively promoting retention among its newest employees," said Gary Anderson, executive director of the Texas Public Employees Association. "Those are the ones that are priming the pump and will become the managers and supervisors for years to come."

Seth Hutchinson of the Texas State Employees Union said people want quality, dedicated state employees to deliver needed services and "in order to have that, you need to give them an incentive to stay."

In September, state workers received a 1 percent across-the-board raise. While they will receive another 2 percent later this year, Hutchinson said that won't be enough as most had not seen a pay increase in five years and their health insurance costs have also risen.

It would be foolish for the state to try to chase private sector pay during an economic boom, said Talmadge Heflin, director of the Center for Fiscal Policy at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Heflin suggested the state should lure younger workers by creating a portable retirement plan like a 401(k) and eliminating the pension that serves as a "golden handcuff" that has kept older employees on the job.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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