Low pay causing problems recruiting and retaining state workers


SEIU Local 503 — the union that represents 55% of the state workforce — reports that there are now nearly 9,000 vacancies across state agencies in Oregon. According to a white paper published by the union May 24, 19% of budgeted positions in state government are currently vacant, and that’s an average: Some jobs have much higher vacancy rates. For example, of 49 budgeted psychiatric social worker positions, 17 are vacant (35%). And of 45 budgeted administrative law judge positions, 21 are vacant (47%).

Vacancies across multiple agencies are leading to longer public wait times for state services, shorter office hours at state agencies, and projects that are being put on hold. Last year the Oregon State Hospital, which houses psychiatric patients, had to rely on on multiple National Guard deployments. DMV offices have been operating on reduced schedules.

The paper was authored by union researchers Daniel Morris and Andrei Reinoso using data provided by the state. The data showed that out of 46,253 budgeted positions, 8,643 were vacant as of April 2023. The authors argue that positions are staying vacant because state worker wages have failed to keep up as private sector wages surged during a period of inflation. Between 2017 and 2022, the average annual wage in Oregon’s private sector increased by 30% while cost of living adjustments for state workers increased by just 13%.

Read the study online here.


  1. Maybe the lack of fulfilled job positions with the state is also due to lack of full description of job duties & lack of publicity about postings!! Would it hurt state agencies to post on their doors that they are looking for workers, especially at DHS & Senior Services outlets, where the low income seekers are more likely to first contact state offices?


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