Government News NYC

NYC Government Workforce Expected to Increase for First Time Since Pandemic

New York City’s full-time government workforce is expected to increase for the first-time year-over-year since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The city is projected to end the 2024 Fiscal Year (FY) in June with at least 283,000 full-time employees, up from 281,917 workers in June 2023.

“The COVID-19 pandemic upended New York city’s public workforce,” DiNapoli said. “The city has worked to stabilize its labor force and fill critical vacancies, while holding down costs. Staffing remains below pre-pandemic levels, but the city should end the fiscal year with its first increase in headcount since the beginning of the pandemic.”

City staffing remains down approximately 5% when compared to pre-pandemic employment of 300,446 employees in FY 2020. A general hiring freeze was in effect from October 2023 through February 2024 as part of the city’s Program to Eliminate the Gap, but staffing has reached 284,330, an increase of 2,413 employees as of January 2024.

Staffing still remains uneven across city agencies, with some still experiencing higher turnover or vacancies since last year. For instance, the Department of Probation’s turnover has increased 128.6% compared to its pre-pandemic average of vacancies, while the Department of Buildings’ turnover increased 68.3% and the Fire Department increased 52%.

As a result of uneven turnover, some categories of government jobs experienced higher percentage declines. The largest declines included public safety jobs like police and correction officers, dispatchers, construction inspectors, and protective service workers, consisting mostly of school safety agents. Also, administrative support roles like executive assistants, clerks and assistants to higher education officers saw greater declines. In total, 24 of 71 major occupations in the city saw staff declines since December of 2022 while others like fire inspectors, biological and life scientists, and customer service representatives increased.

The city’s vacancy rates have been cut almost in half in an effort to reduce costs. The Department of Education had 7,745 vacancies in 2023, and currently does not have enough staff to meet the state’s class size mandates. Some agencies, particularly those that did not focus on cutting costs by reducing vacancies, are still experiencing elevated vacancy rates when compared to pre-pandemic. Environmental Protection has the highest vacancy rate by program area at 11.5% followed by the Department of Transportation (10%) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (9.3%).

To reduce vacancies, the city has been accelerating hiring since the pandemic and has increased civil service exams and outreach to potential applicants through the city’s online job hub. For example, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which administers the city’s civil service system, reports it has reduced the median time from exam administration to exam results completion from an average of 318 days in FY 2021 to 219 days in FY 2023. The number of applications received for all DCAS civil service exams increased, from 75,489 in FY 2021, to 119,599 in FY 2023, with DCAS also reporting that the number of employment applications received via the city’s online job hub has nearly doubled over two years to 736,011 in FY 2023.

The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and the Department of Youth and Community Development have more than doubled their hiring in FY 2024 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Similarly, the Department of Social Services, which has been experiencing significant staffing challenges in the wake of the pandemic coupled with rising demand for public assistance, added 1,228 employees to payroll in FY 2024, an increase of 82.9% over its pre-pandemic hiring level.

Some agencies are using overtime to address staffing challenges, and overtime has grown to $1.8 billion through March 2024 of FY 2024, compared to $1.1 billion through the same period in FY 2021. While overtime growth is mostly driven by uniform agencies, others like the Administration for Children’s Services and the Human Resources Administration have increased overtime spending significantly when compared to the pre-pandemic years. DiNapoli warns that the city’s response to these ongoing staffing challenges will have important fiscal implications. While overtime may be used in the short-term, such spending was not anticipated at the time of budget adoption, creating gaps that must be closed by generating revenue or reductions in planned spending. DiNapoli recommends the city continue to make efforts to properly target staffing levels to meet necessary demand and ensure delivery of quality services for its residents.