Why are so many Wausau employees quitting?
The city is looking at raising its pay as record numbers quit city hall
As some of you know, I have been knee deep in data visualization. And the city budget has given me plenty of material.
So when I came across this tidbit from Wausau’s annual budget, I just had to dive in. And the revelation is this: Wausau is losing record numbers of employees.
Here is a chart that shows exactly what I’m talking about:
Remember 2010, when the economy was in the tank and people were thankful to just have jobs? There were plenty of retirements around that time, but also plenty of people searching for jobs so it all kind of worked out. In fact, some say the Great Recession simply delayed the phenomena we are seeing now: far more jobs available than people to fill them.
(A caveat to that, and something I’ve written about several times now, is that many employers STILL aren’t getting the message that they need to adjust their tactics. I still see jobs without salary ranges listed all the time, and the algorithms and poorly designed online application protocols are still in place.)
There are still retirements, of course. But an interesting change is that now more employees are quitting than ever before. So I created a new chart (all charts in this post, unless otherwise indicated, were coded by me using Python and the MatPlotLib and Numpy libraries). Quitting is happening A LOT:
More people have quit their jobs at city hall so far this year than any time in the past ten years. The low was 2011, which was still very much the recession for those in small municipalities such as Wausau.
(To clarify, the above chart shows ONLY employees who quit - not fired, not retired, or whatever other reason.)
Why does it matter?
This of course isn’t unique to the city. Wausau’s unemployment rate, like many other communities, is very low. The pandemic was only a brief reprieve from the phenomena, as I pointed out in an earlier chart:
Unemployment spiked as lockdowns took hold in March, then pretty quickly came back down. It’s at 3.1 right now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Quitting is the same. According to the August BLS jobs report (released earlier this month), total openings really skyrocketed in August, and total separations have been increasing steadily since a big spike and recovery around March 2020.
Impact on City Hall
Mayor Katie Rosenberg announced the cost of doing business in 2022, compared to 2021, would be $1 million. In other words, if the budget was untouched and nothing new happened, the $100 million budget would cost $101 million, a 1% increase.
MaryAnne Groat, the City’s Finance Director, said the city faced a $560,000 shortfall, and labor took up a large share of the blame. One aspect is health insurance, and that’s always been a tricky pony for city budgets. Municipalities never can be sure if it will go up or down, or by how much (it went up 8.8% this year).
But relevant to this story, the city’s HR committee proposed eliminating the first two pay steps in the city’s pay plan to help improve retention and recruitment. Any current employees at steps one or two would essentially get a raise to step three, and new employees would start at step three from day one.
City Hall is hardly the only organization facing this. Every organization is finding itself having trouble keeping employees. Whether wages are increasing or not is up for debate (our local McDonald’s offering $15 per hour for some shifts, or ALDI offering $14/hr starting wages where not too long ago it paid $9/hr; that would indicate they are; data from Pew would indicate the opposite, that wages have stagnated).
The difference is that McDonald’s isn’t going to show us data around employees quitting. But city hall will, because it’s taxpayer funded. And this little tidbit from the budget might give us a clue to what is going on in the broader employment world.
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