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Job Seekers Aren’t as Interested in Government Gigs as They Used to Be, Research Shows

Even as state governments post more and more job openings, workers are applying for fewer public sector jobs, according to new research published by the National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA), global consulting firm Accenture, and NEOGOV, a company that makes human resources software for the public sector.

Between 2013 and 2017, across 27 states, job postings increased by 11%, but during that same period, the number of applicants went down 24%. That gap, currently estimated at 35%, is expected to widen even more in the coming years, rising up to 70% within five years.

Public sector jobs are often thought of as more stable and with better benefits, like pensions. But, when it comes to the current bottom line, 85% of states citied an inability to keep pace with private sector salaries. And because national unemployment rates remain relatively low, one theory is that workers—especially younger ones—can afford to be a bit more selective when it comes to where they want to work full-time, even if only for a year or two.

Perhaps unsurprising, one big takeaway from the research report is that the public sector should consider reimagining its recruiting efforts, from branding basics such as how jobs are advertised to prospective applicants to the types of on-the-job investment agencies are willing to offer, such as skills training and certification programs. To compete for a next-generation workforce, state government agencies will have to revitalize recruiting and entice workers with other types of benefits and offerings that make working for the people just as compelling as those more lucrative private company jobs.