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New MissionSquare Research Institute Survey Finds Many Public Service Employees Worry About Inflation

March 2, 2023

Nearly two in three public service workers (64%) are worried about inflation and their ability to keep up with the current cost of living. Additionally, 58% worry about inflation decreasing the value of their savings, according to a new public sector workforce survey conducted by MissionSquare Research Institute.

Amid a shortage of public service workers, employees most commonly cited job security (92%), personal satisfaction from their job (87%), and retirement benefits (86%) as the factors that attracted them to their current job in the public sector.

These findings are detailed in a new research report, State and Local Government Employees: Morale, Public Service Motivation, Financial Concerns, and Retention. Read the research. Read a related infographic.

A webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 21st at 2pm ET to review the research. Register here.

“The high levels of financial anxiety and burnout that we're seeing among public sector workers play a key role in the recruitment and retention challenges that state and local governments continue to face,” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, PhD, MissionSquare Research Institute Senior Research Manager and lead author of the research. “On the plus side, 66% of public sector workers report positive morale, and 59% are very or extremely satisfied with the quality of their colleagues/coworkers. We hope this research provides key insights and serves as a valuable tool for public service employers grappling with stubbornly high numbers of unfilled jobs.”

“With all the economic turmoil and lingering inflation, it’s not surprising that so many public service employees are worried about their financial and retirement security,” said Lynne Ford, CEO and President of MissionSquare Retirement. “This survey found only 26% of public employees are confident that they are on track to financial security in retirement. Even fewer, 23%, are confident that they will have enough money to pay for their medical expenses or long-term care during retirement. Given that benefits are employee magnets, this research is a clear signal that employers must continue to offer strong benefits to public service workers.”

Additional key research findings are as follows:

  • Only 28% of respondents reported that they feel very or extremely financially secure right now. For more than one in three respondents (34%), it is somewhat or very difficult in the typical month to pay their monthly bills on time and in full.
  • Among the 87% with one or more types of debt, more than three in four (77%) report that their level of debt prevents them from saving more for retirement.
  • Some 66% of respondents report positive morale regarding work currently, with 24% reporting very positive morale. Despite the relatively positive levels of morale and positive emotions felt about their job, 41% of respondents are considering changing jobs in the near future.
  • More than three in four (77%) agree that the increase in people leaving their jobs voluntarily has put a strain on their own workload, with 34% reporting that it has been a significant strain.
  • Asked what emotions they have felt about their job this past year, respondents were most likely to report feeling stressed (49%), burned out/fatigued (47%), and grateful (43%).
  • To retain more employees, respondents were most likely to recommend that their organization improve salaries (74%), offer/increase bonuses (54%), and show more appreciation and recognition for employees and the work they do (45%).

The results are based on an October/November 2022 national online survey conducted by Greenwald Research of 1,003 state and local government employees, assessing their views on their job and financial outlook, motivations for working in the public sector, morale and work concerns, and job satisfaction and retention issues. The final data was weighted by gender, age, income, and industry type to reflect the distribution of the state and local government workforce as found in the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Census of Governments.

Since May of 2020, MissionSquare Research Institute has surveyed state and local public service employees approximately every six months to better understand their perspectives on their current and future employment and financial outlook, morale and job satisfaction, recruitment and retention, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these issues. Findings from these surveys have been released in the form of reports, infographics, and animated videos (see COVID-19 and the Public Sector Workforce: Collected Resources).

MissionSquare Research Institute promotes excellence in state and local government and other public service organizations to attract and retain talented employees. The organization identifies leading practices and conducts research on retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, labor force development, and topics facing the not-for-profit industry and education sector. MissionSquare Research Institute brings together leaders and respected researchers. More information and access to research and publications are available at www.missionsq.org/researchinstitute.

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