The Quiet Crisis in the Public Sector

by Shane Evangelist on July 13, 2022

The public sector faces some of the most significant hiring challenges of any segment in today’s hyper-competitive job market. Learn about the consequences and how agencies can recover from this recruitment crisis.

The Widening Gap Between Job Openings and Applications

Public sector employees provide the services we rely on every day, the services that make our society function. Transit, utilities, education, security, and the list goes on. Without enough government employees to fill these positions, we'll continue to see a negative impact on services to citizens. 

The number of applicants per public sector job has been dropping consistently for several years, but the drop this past year was particularly dramatic. We wanted to know why, so we decided to speak with job seekers and HR directors to get answers. 

Here's what we found:

  • The increase in public sector job postings from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022 has grown a staggering 45%! Yet the number of applications per open job during that same period decreased by 56%.
  • On average, only 14.3 job seekers applied for every open job. This number dropped to as few as 7 applicants per job at some agencies.

Applicant Perspectives

Job applicants shared that benefits packages and the opportunity to do meaningful work far outweighed salary and stability when considering a career in the public sector. They resoundingly agreed the clarity of job requirements and transparency of salaries are clear advantages of the public sector hiring process. But they also expressed a clear desire for better communication and a more modernized and timely process.

“Getting transcripts, references and completing the application and questions was time-consuming and labor-intensive, as well as repetitive,” wrote one job applicant. 

Insights from HR Professionals

A mass exodus of workers to the private sector, increased competition in the job market, and a rise in job openings due to the Silver Tsunami of recent retirees have combined to push public sector job openings to unprecedented levels.

Agencies are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill positions, leading to staff burnout, lower morale, higher overtime costs, and reduced service to citizens. The combination of these factors has hit law enforcement particularly hard.

Here are the numbers we uncovered:

  • 80% of those surveyed responded that the number of job openings is higher than an average year.
  • Half of those respondents said it was the highest number of job openings they’d seen in recent memory.
  • Additionally, 79% of agencies cannot find enough qualified candidates.

The result? 20% of public sector agencies have already reduced services to citizens in early 2022.

What Can We Do?

As we’ve seen, the public sector is facing significant difficulty attracting qualified applicants in today's job market, but there are ways to improve your hiring strategies.  

  • Create job postings highlighting the aspects that appeal to applicants most, like benefits, flexibility, skills development, and a sense of purpose
  • Take advantage of new communication tools such as online job boards, digital ads, and social media
  • Speed up the hiring and onboarding process with simplified, online applications, virtual interviews, and proactive communication
  • Utilize technology to level the playing field with the private sector

"More engaging job postings, faster turnaround time in contacting candidates, investing more time in onboarding and the new hire journey..." - Maine respondent

Learn More

Watch our on-demand webinar now for an in-depth look at our survey results and to hear a panel discussion with customers who shared their evolving recruiting strategies for this new normal.

Shane Evangelist

Shane Evangelist, the Chief Executive Officer of NEOGOV, is a results-driven business leader with years of experience building and managing high performing teams. His expertise includes strategically attracting talent, cultivating organizational culture, and optimizing business outcomes. Shane's mission as NEOGOV CEO is to serve the people who serve the people.