By SAODAT ASANOVA-TAYLOR
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s government employment is the second lowest in the nation, a new report says.
A poll by Gallup Inc., a polling consulting company, shows that 12.2 percent of the Michigan workforce holds federal, state or local government jobs. Pennsylvania has the lowest proportion, 12.1 percent.
The report noted that 64 percent of Americans say that they fear “big government” more then “big business” or “big labor”.
John DiTizio, director of labor relations at Michigan Association of Governmental Employees, said he is not surprise by the poll results.
“We have seen a dramatic job decline in the public sector but the demand for services remains the same. Unemployment is so high that people have to work their brains off with overtime hours that are not always paid,” he said.
According to DeTizio, job cuts increased workload in Departments of Community Health and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
“People think they have it right, but they don’t,” he said.
“It’s a shame, that our government doesn’t realize how much people work overtime to provide these services in Medicaid, food assistance and more. With retirements, we lose tons of people who are not replaced,” said DeTizio.
Government jobs decreased in Michigan throughout 2010 and 2011. A survey by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget reported the decline by 13, 000 jobs or 2.1 percent, in two years. Most of them were at the local level. Overall federal, state and local government employment in the nation fell by 1 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Anthony Minghine, associate executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, said that public reliance on government jobs has decreased over the years.
The League represents cities and villages.
“Less people are choosing government jobs because of low wages and cuts of benefits. Why would you choose a government job when you can make more money or have access to wider revenue resources in the private sector?” he said.
Minghine noted that, in general, limited resources in the public sector make it difficult to recruit professionals, businesses and specialists to move to and work in Michigan.
“ If we want to attract business companies or professionals, we need to provide quality public services, safety and infrastructure. People should not wait in line for getting their license or other public services,” said Minghine.
Kurt Weiss, communication director for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said private sector development and privatization of public services are the key goal of the Snyder administration.
“The decline in public employment certainly affects the quality of public services. But the government has a plan to bring more private investments and business into the state,” he said.
“They think privatization of public services in the long term can create more jobs,” Weiss said.
Michael Thibault, a union business representative on the Upper Peninsula Construction Council in Marquette, said industrial development doesn’t look promising in Northern Michigan.
“We don’t have too many industrial private sector jobs available in our areas. We had some spark in the business climate in the past, but now the construction stopped and we haven’t witnessed a whole lot of private sector hiring,” he said.
“There are some mining interests developing and perhaps it might bring some jobs,” Thibault said.
Meanwhile, in December 2011 the state’s seasonal unemployment rate was the highest in the Northern Michigan counties, particularly in Mackinac 18,3; Baraga 18.1; Montmorency 17.9; Presque Isle 16.2; Emmet 13.8 and Cheboygan 13.2 percent.
Fred Timpner, executive director of the Michigan Association of Public Employees and Michigan Association of Police, said he is concerned that employment decline will hurt public safety.
“The numbers of police officers in the state are the lowest that I have known, especially in Detroit, the city that leads the national rate of homicides. If we don’t have enough people, we won’t lower the level of crimes,” he said.
Timpner argued that privatization of public services is a not good idea.
“Now corporations are coming and taking over our jobs. We have toll roads, we have charter schools and plan to privatize our jails,” he said.
“That means we pay more money for services and work for minimum wages. The principle of the public servant is slowly disappearing in our state,” Timpner said.
Percentage of the Workforce employed by government and nearby states:
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By SAODAT ASANOVA-TAYLOR