Government Jobs Shrinking Under Last Two Years of Haslam

In a blog post Wednesday examining the state’s ascending unemployment rate, Ed Arnold at the Memphis Business Journal pointed out that the biggest loss of jobs has come from the government sector.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate for August 2014 was 7.4 percent — 1.1 percent lower than the 2013 rate, which was unchanged from August 2012’s rate of 8.5 percent. However, the most recent unemployment numbers also represent a 1.1 percent increase from this April’s rate of 6.3 percent.

As the MBJ piece explains, although several employment sectors have shed jobs in recent months only three have a smaller workforce than in fall of 2013 — information, education and government.

Information and education both lost 1,300 workers.

The government workforce, which saw an increase in nearly 7,000 employees between 2011 and 2012, had declined by 11,600 workers in 2013, according to Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development figures. That fall continued through 2014, with a loss of 6,700.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed 2014-15 budget also included a reduction of 664 state employee positions, 100 of which were not vacant.

Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor whose family founded the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain, has made it a top goal of his administration to streamline state government, making it more efficient and business-like.

In 2012 the General Assembly passed civil service reform legislation, pushed by Haslam, that granted the state more freedom in hiring and firing practices, as well as to reward performance over seniority.