The Washington state Employment Security Department said this week its last round of layoffs and job cuts totaled 420 positions, the largest such layoff in agency history. Spokeswoman Sheryl Hutchison said 119 people actually left the agency this year due to direct layoffs, and the cuts played out over late May and June.
By the second week of July the agency’s staffing was down to 1,674 positions. That is about 1,000 fewer than the peak during the recession and in line with what the agency predicted in May.
The agency made its reductions in three rounds including cuts in January and July 2012. The cuts included reorganizations such as cutting the number of regional economists from 12 to six.
Gov. Jay Inslee appointed commissioner Dale Peinecke to take over the agency after last fall’s election. Peinecke came in during January and called for a broader look at the level of staffing that would be sustainable for a longer period, while also adjusting to lower federal funding as the effects of the Great Recession wane.
“We had grown because of the recession, because we are a counter-cyclical agency (providing more services when times are bad) … But we are down to about 300 below where we were before the recession,’’ Hutchison said.
The agency kept some positions open in order to reduce the impact of layoffs, but hundreds of workers were given layoff warnings in early May. “The bottom line is 168 people bumped into other positions and 119 went out the door,” Hutchison said.
The agency finished tallying the staffing changes last week and released them in response to a long-standing request from The Olympian.
Hutchison said the agency depends on state and federal funds and there is still uncertainty about the next federal budget due for action in September. But her hope is the agency is positioned well and can avoid further reductions in the near future.