A new report from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office released Monday shows that the city government’s workforce continues to be on the decline.
According to the Nov. 14 missive, New York City’s full-time workforce declined by 19,113 employees over the last two years, the largest decline in staffing since the Great Recession of 2008. Despite making over 40,000 hires this past fiscal year, city job vacancies currently stand at more than 21,000.
During the pandemic, the city workforce saw a 6.4% decrease, spanning unevenly across its 37 largest agencies. 11 of those agencies experienced a 13%+ staffing decline, with the Department of Correction (DOC) having the greatest loss of employees with a 23.6% decline, followed by the Department of Investigation at 22.2% and the Taxi & Limousine Commission at 20.5%. While the DOC decrease was planned, the pace was greater than anticipated, and the Police Department (6.7%), Department of Social Services (13.7%), and Administration for Children’s Services (15.6%) accounted for more than half of the citywide workforce decline from June 2020 to August 2022.
Other agencies that saw significant decreases in staff included the City Law Department (18.3%), Department of Finance (16.8%), Citywide Administrative Services (15.6%), City Planning (15.3%), Youth and Community Development (14.8%), Department of Probation (13.8%) and the Department of Social Services (13.7%).
“The pandemic caused a significant decline to the city’s workforce, and it is particularly troubling that turnover continues to outpace hiring,” DiNapoli said. “Without the hardworking individuals who keep this city running, critical and essential services for our children and most vulnerable residents could be impacted. Budget gaps loom, and while the city needs to find efficiencies, it also must prioritize a clear understanding of staffing challenges at its agencies and be transparent about their potential impact on services.”
In the report, DiNapoli’s office examines the divisions that took place in city departments that deliver and oversee critical programs and services. The results were that 23 departments had vacancy rates of more than 14%, with Social Services, Education, Parks and Recreation, Homeless Services, and Mental Health and Hygiene having the highest vacancy rates of more than 20%. As a result, services for child support, early childhood education, park facility maintenance, and help for the homeless and individuals facing mental health challenges could be disrupted.
The report notes that the vacancy rates are mostly driven by the city’s temporary reduction in hiring in the fiscal year 2021 as well as the rise of separations from service which followed. This past September, Mayor Eric Adams ordered New York City agencies to cut spending by 3% in the fiscal year 2023 and by 4.75% beginning in the fiscal year 2024, and while reducing vacancies can help achieve part of these savings, the report shows many city departments have yet to even reach their current staffing targets, due to elevated attrition over the past two years.
Across New York City departments, 14 occupational groups saw decreases of 15% or more, including executive assistants (-27.2%), correction officers (-25.9%), groundskeepers and gardeners (-24.5%), school safety agents (-22.0), information clerks (-21.6%), counselors (-19.4%), lawyers (-19.3%) and legal assistants (-17.4%). Certain positions saw over a 13% turnover rate, including fire inspection and prevention occupations, financial officers, architects, accountants and auditors, general office clerks, mechanics and repairers, school administration support staff, social workers, investigators and adjustors, managers, and sheriffs.
The report says that the city plans to fill 24,969 positions by the 2023 fiscal year, which the report notes is an ambitious goal. In October, more than half of the city’s major agencies had external job postings for at least 20% of their openings, with the Administration for Children’s Services and Department of Homeless Services having the highest amount of job listings. Other major agencies, on the other hand, did not show significant efforts to hire as of October 2022.
DiNapoli recommends that the city review agencies and divisions for staffing adequacy while considering if there are staffing challenges or opportunities to be more efficient with the current staff. DiNapoli also recommended that the city provide the public with a detailed review of agency operations so that the public understands what impact the current staffing issues have on the city’s ability to provide services and use existing reports on agency operations to inform decisions over which vacancies may be eliminated.
Visit the comptroller’s website, osc.state.ny.us, to read the full report.