Overtime Soared in NYS Government During Pandemic

The total cost of overtime in 2020 at NY state government agencies reached an all-time high at more than $850 million, continuing an upward trend over the last decade and spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Total overtime hours of 19 million increased 3.9 percent and total overtime earnings increased 5.5 percent from 2019. Overtime earnings comprised 4.8 percent of total payroll spending in 2020, an increase from the 4.2 percent average from 2011 through 2019.

“State agency overtime reached a record level last year,” DiNapoli said. “The COVID-19 pandemic required state workers across New York to work long, grueling hours to deal with a crisis never before seen during our lifetime. The pandemic touched nearly every aspect of our lives and the men and women in public employment stepped up to help keep the public safe and get critical benefits.”

Three agencies performed most of the overtime in 2020: The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (Corrections) and the Office of Mental Health (Mental Health) made up 25 percent of the workforce but accounted for 62.9 percent of overtime hours and 59.9 percent of the overtime earnings in 2020. While these three agencies typically lead all others in overtime usage, overtime hours and earnings at Mental Health and OPWDD increased at a slower rate than state agencies overall in 2020.

In contrast, overtime increased dramatically at agencies that don’t typically incur it, because their staff served essential roles in addressing issues related to the pandemic. Hours soared at the Department of Labor (+17,908 percent), Department of Health (+288 percent), Department of Taxation and Finance (+243 percent) and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (+70 percent).

Across all state agencies, employees working overtime worked 16.3 more hours per a two-week pay period on average, an increase of 8.9 percent in 2020. The statewide average of overtime earnings per pay period went up 10.7 percent to $727.

Since 2011, the average annual number of state employees, not including SUNY and CUNY, has declined by 6.1 percent to just below 154,000. They include full-time, part-time and temporary staff per pay period throughout the year. With limited exceptions, a hiring freeze has been in effect for all Executive Branch departments and agencies since April 28, 2020. Due to staffing constraints, some agencies may be relying increasingly on overtime to accomplish objectives.