State Workers

State human resources staff shrinks again

The state Department of Personnel cut its work force by 21 people last week, a more than 10 percent reduction that is part of ongoing downsizing in state government.

The cuts shrink the agency from 209 to 188 workers and result in the elimination of the agency’s executive recruitment services unit, which had employed nearly four full-time workers.

“Certainly with the hiring freeze, the demand has gone down. It’s certainly a service that can be purchased outside the department, and it often is,” agency deputy director Mike Sellars said Friday.

The agency also eliminated its skill-assessment and test-development services, cutting four jobs, and reduced its training staff by half to eliminate the equivalent of slightly more than 11 full-time jobs. An additional 1.8 full-time-equivalent jobs were cut in information services.

The job cuts come at a time when general-government employment has been falling during the economic downturn and a series of budget cuts initiated by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2008 and by the Legislature in 2009.

Personnel’s monthly head counts show that general-government employment totaled 63,131 full- or part-time employees as of Jan. 31, which is 2,159 fewer people than on June 30, 2009, and 4,009 fewer than in July 2008.

Data kept by the governor’s Office of Financial Management showed that the number of full-time-equivalent jobs in all sectors of state government – including judicial, higher education and general – was 113,345 as of Nov. 30, down from 116,104 in November 2008.

The Personnel cuts were specifically in response to Gregoire’s supplemental budget proposed in December, in which the agency was asked to cut $3.5 million, Sellars said. It is not clear whether budgets yet to be adopted by lawmakers would require additional cuts, he added.

The 21 people who lost jobs effective March 1 included 12 who were laid off, four who retired and five who are going to other agencies or the private sector. Overall, the agency put out job-elimination notices to 52 people, but 31 stayed with the agency in new roles.

Sellars said some of the reassigned staff members are working in the agency’s expanded area of “shared services.” That is an effort by Personnel to help smaller agencies with shared tasks. It also involves efforts by the personnel, retirement and health care agencies to create a self-service portal for workers to learn about paychecks and benefits.

Personnel has made other cuts in the past year – including abandoning an electronic recruiting system last fall that was part of a costly human resources computer upgrade in 2006. The agency is switching to a private-sector provider for a one-stop portal to help people seeking state jobs, Sellars said.

But the agency made no announcement of those cuts.

“We’ve kind of had our head down trying to get through the process,” Sellars said.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688