The Sunshine Economy: Public Sector Employment

Oct 7, 2013

Lauderhill Police Chief Andrew Smalling
Credit Tom Hudson

Like a lot of law enforcement agencies in South Florida, the Lauderhill Police Department run by Lauderhill Police Chief Andrew Smalling did not hire any new officers for several years as the city's budget was hit by falling property values. But now Lauderhill is hiring again. It's looking for five new officers, offering full benefits and a starting salary around $50,000.

It's a bright spot in an otherwise challenging environment for government workers. State and local governments have been shedding jobs for several years, cutting payroll as property taxes dropped with the housing collapse. Miami-Dade County has 4,000 fewer full-time employees today compared to 2008. Broward County employs fewer people. Many cities have cut back too.

Join host Tom Hudson every Monday at 9:00 a.m. for WLRN's ongoing series, The Sunshine Economy, a weekly look at the key industries transforming South Florida into a regional powerhouse.
Credit WLRN

Join us for Monday at 9 a.m. on 91.3 FM for The Sunshine Economy: Public Works - Government Jobs Under Pressure in South Florida.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has been a loud and consistent voice calling for more government spending to stimulate the economy. We speak with him during a visit to Florida Atlantic University about the role of government work in a slow economic recovery, and finding the balance between private industry job creation and government jobs.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez began his career as a government worker (a firefighter) and he continues today as the county’s top elected official. He tells us it is simple economics behind why the county payroll has continued to shrink during his administration. Gimenez points to the parks, fire and police as county departments he thinks are close to having the appropriate number of employees. But he warns employee unions not to expect much during upcoming labor contract negotiations.

Bertha Henry is the chief executive officer in Broward County. She's responsible for the day-to-day operations of thousands of county employees. While Broward County has begun to hire again, the county workforce remains below what it was before the Great Recession began. And with budgets still under pressure, many senior government officials may be taking early retirement, leaving the county with a brain drain issue.

One source of the drop in public sector employment has been school districts. Schools have been cutting support staff while looking for ways to ensure teachers remain in the classrooms. WLRN State Impact/Education Reporter Sammy Mack takes a close look at school hiring and how it impacts teaching.

Florida Governor Rick Scott ran for office on a platform of creating jobs. And each month when the employment statistics are released, he's careful to talk about private industry jobs. Under his administration, the state government workforce has continued shrinking. WLRN-Miami Herald News reporter Gina Jordan takes a closer look at the governor's dissecting of job creation in Florida.  

And the Miami Herald's Doug Hanks thinks this may be the last year government jobs contract. As the housing recovery takes hold and tourism remains strong, government revenues have improved, although that doesn't necessarily translate into more jobs for state and local governments.