One in six CT government jobs is vacant as workers keep leaving

Connecticut governors and legislatures have been using job freezes to help close state budget deficits for more than a decade.

And even after state tax receipts began pouring in, Gov. Ned Lamont has frozen vacancies faster than did his predecessor — much to the consternation of lawmakers.

Now, with one-sixth of most Executive Branch jobs empty, retirements accelerating and the coronavirus pandemic still not over, unions and some legislators say a more concerted effort to hire must begin immediately.

“It is unsustainable for us to continue working 16-hour shifts in a job that is already known for being dangerous and with high rates of physical injuries and mental health stressors,” said Sean Howard, President of Local 387 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 800 correction officers and other front-line employees at the Cheshire Correctional Complex.

According to data obtained by the CT Mirror from the state Office of Policy and Management, all Executive Branch agencies — excluding public colleges and universities — have collectively filled 25,700 of the 30,080 positions authorized for them in the state budget.

The 17% vacancy rate is almost double where it stood two years ago, when 9.4% of jobs were empty.

According to Comptroller Natalie Braswell’s office, 3,848 employees — across all of state government — have either retired this calendar year or filed written intent to do so before more stringent pension benefit rules take effect on July 1. And that number is projected to keep growing over the next two months.

In a typical year, the state sees 2,000 to 2,500 retirements.

Staffing across all prisons is down more than 600, and that is also likely to grow before the fiscal year ends June 30, Howard said, adding that officers face mandatory overtime “to an exhausting and unhealthy extent. … We put our lives and health on the line during COVID. We need relief.”