Mar 14, 2024 - News

Philadelphia contends with thousands of vacant municipal jobs

Data: City of Philadelphia; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: City of Philadelphia; Chart: Axios Visuals

Mayor Cherelle Parker inherited a government with nearly 6,300 employee vacancies when she took office in January, per data from the city.

Why it matters: Staffing shortages can hinder the delivery of municipal services, lead to worker burnout and increase overtime spending.

Driving the news: 19% of 33,031 budgeted municipal jobs were vacant across dozens of agencies at the close of last year, per data provided by the Parker administration.

Context: Philly has struggled to fill positions for years as resignations rose during the pandemic and despite offering hiring bonuses and perks, including free public transit.

🚨 Threat level: Staffing shortages have contributed to delays in services like trash and recycling collection.

By the numbers: The following departments had the highest number of vacancies at the start of the year, per city data:

  • Police: 1,354 vacancies
  • Prisons: 942
  • Fire: 624
  • Water: 505
  • Streets: 438

The highest vacancy rates were seen in the prisons department (43%), procurement (38%), Mural Arts (30%), and parks and rec (29%).

Zoom in: Parker has pledged to boost hiring for specific departments, like police.

Yes, but: The mayor wants to restore in-person work for all municipal workers, which some say could lead to an exodus of employees.

What they're saying: Parker spokesperson Joe Grace tells Axios the city's plan to fill vacancies includes new recruitment campaigns, reducing barriers to employment and community-based outreach initiatives.

  • He added that municipal government "continues to operate as usual" and workers "remain committed to ensuring continuous services to the citizens of Philadelphia. We do not anticipate any disruptions to services."

The other side: David Wilson, president of AFSCME Local 2187, said staffing shortages have led to overworked employees, who are already paid less than their private sector counterparts.

  • Parker's push to call all employees back to the office full-time will likely make more city workers leave, added Wilson, whose local represents social workers, accountants and others.
  • "That would be a big blow to the staffing of vacancies," he said.

What we're watching: Whether Parker unveils any new initiatives in her budget address today to fill the thousands of vacant municipal jobs.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show 19% of the city's 33,031 municipal jobs were vacant at the start of the year (not 23.5% of 26,730 jobs, which the Parker administration originally provided).

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