High workloads, low pay drive mass turnover of state employees

State agency turnover hits levels not seen since 2000!

According to a new report from the Texas State Auditor’s Office, 2017 saw the largest number of state agency employees quit the job in nearly two decades. With a statewide turnover rate of 18.6%, the last time Texas had a higher turnover rate, George W. Bush was governor. Nearly 24,000 state employees voluntarily quit the job in 2017. Among that number are nurses, care providers for the mentally ill and disabled, social workers for the poor and unemployed, and parole officers.
The Auditor’s report also clearly outlines the top reasons for the mass exit of the state’s service providers- low pay and high workloads. In exit surveys with state employees on their way out the door, 70% of respondents said they were moving on to higher paying jobs, and compensation and workloads were tied for the number one thing employees wanted to change about working for the state.
The source of the frustration is easy to find– since 2010, the Texas State Legislature provided state workers with across-the-board raises of just 5.5%, less than half the rate of inflation over that same period. And while the population of Texas has boomed in recent years to over 28.3 million, the number of state agency employees tasked with serving Texans has actually declined since 1994.
The result is that state employees on the frontlines of providing critical services are working harder for less money. Said Anthony Brown, TSEU President and HHSC Contract Manager, “I see it every day, more and more of my coworkers are deciding that no matter how much they care about the work we do, it’s just not worth it to keep working for the state when our pay is so low.”
When state agencies suffer from high turnover, the millions of Texas taxpayers who rely on state services are impacted. With fewer experienced, qualified state employees in the trenches, the quality of care for the mentally ill, physically and intellectually disabled, for seniors and abused kids all declines.
Reading between the lines, it’s easy to find the solution to Texas’ turnover woes- big pay raises for all state workers. One major bright spot in the Auditor’s report can be found in declining CPS turnover rates for those who recently saw $12,000/year bump in pay. Child Protective Services had a 29% drop in CPS Specialist turnover between 2016 and 2017 when the raises went into effect after an intense organizing effort on the part of TSEU members in CPS.

The Texas State Employees Union is now calling for an emergency, across-the-board pay raise for all state workers from the state’s $10 billion Rainy Day Fund.


Quick facts:

  • 18.6% statewide turnover highest in 17 years, since 2000
  • CPS Specialists saw a 29% drop in turnover from 2016 after getting $12,000/year raise
  • nearly 24,000 state employees quit the job in 2017
  • 69% of 28,218 separations were people quitting
  • 16% was from retirement
  • 14% was termination
  • according to exit surveys- compensation and workloads were the two issues with the greatest impact on employees’ decision to quit
  • compensation was the number one thing respondents said they wanted to change about their job
  • nearly 70% of exit survey respondents said they were moving on to a higher paying job
  • since 2010 legislature has funded across-the-board raises of just 5.5%
  • as of December 2016, over 6,000 state employees were receiving Food Stamps (SNAP) and over 30,000 children of state employees were on Medicaid/CHIP at an annual cost to taxpayers of $119 million
  • since 1994, Texas’ population has increased by 54.3% while the number of state agency FTE’s has declined by 2.7%