Jul 25, 2022 - News

Denver government is having a hard time hiring

Illustration of increasingly desperate "now hiring" signs
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The number of people employed in Denver's public sector is lagging, mirroring a nationwide trend.

Why it matters: A robust city government workforce ensures that basic resident needs are met, from picking up trash and clearing snowy roads to lowering crime and helping the hungry.

By the numbers: As of July 13, Denver government has 888 fewer workers than the same period in 2019, comparing all employee types, including on-calls, according to data obtained by Axios Denver from the city's Office of Human Resources.

The big picture: Government employers are competing for workers in an increasingly tight labor market — and they have less to offer, Axios Markets' Emily Peck writes.

  • The public sector typically pays less than private companies, and is also less flexible when it comes to hybrid and remote working options.
  • Colorado lawmakers are even concerned that its workforce shortages will hamper the ability to distribute billions in federal pandemic relief.

What they're saying: "People have fled the public sector for the private sector, where signing bonuses and faster wage growth have been far more accessible," said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, in an email to Axios.

State of play: The city has ramped up recruiting efforts this year to fill vacancies, but continues to use traditional methods like recruitment fairs, job boards and targeted marketing campaigns, a spokesperson for Denver's Office of Human Resources told Axios Denver.

  • Current incentives include signing bonuses for some hard-to-fill positions — such as equipment operators and lifeguards — as well as commuter subsidies and free EcoPasses for eligible employees through the end of 2022.

Of note: The rate at which the city is filling vacancies is higher now than in 2019, and the city’s time-to-hire remains relatively static at around 40 days, per Denver's Office of Human Resources.

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