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Michigan's local governments face growing concerns over workforce recruitment and retention

City Hall in Benton Harbor.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Local governments in Michigan are struggling to recruit and retain their workforces — and a recent report finds it is only getting more difficult.

The Michigan Public Policy Survey asked local governments across the state to report their top concerns.

The survey found that 60% of jurisdictions have trouble finding new employees who are qualified.

Additionally, 32% of employers reported concerns with keeping their existing staff— that's nearly double the rate reported in 2017, before the pandemic.

Survey researchers found that low wages were correlated with low employee retention.

"Despite the fact that they've been raising (pay) rates over the past decade, in 2022, nearly a third say that their pay rates are still too low given what their employees need or deserve," said Debra Horner, the senior program manager behind the survey.

In the 2022 report, 48% of all jurisdictions that said current employee pay rates were too low, also struggled with retention.

Researchers also found that public harassment and abuse of government employees — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and election cycles — were also linked to low recruitment and retention.

Horner said that 2022 was the first year the survey asked local governments about public harassment towards its workers, and the responses were concerning.

"Places where local leaders say that jurisdiction personnel have recently experienced harassment, 79% of those are saying employee recruitment is a problem," said Horner.

Horner said she hopes these findings create a more supported workforce in Michigan's local governments.

Priya Vijayakumar started her Newsroom Internship in January 2023. She is interested in science/health reporting and making the facts more accessible to all!
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