Category Archives: Public Sector

Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-job Inequality: Women and Men of the Transportation Security Administration

Source: Curtis K. Chan, Michel Anteby, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 61 no. 2, June 2016
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From the abstract:
In this article, we examine a case of task segregation—when a group of workers is disproportionately allocated, relative to other groups, to spend more time on specific tasks in a given job—and argue that such segregation is a potential mechanism for generating within-job inequality in the quality of a job. When performing those tasks is undesirable, this allocation has unfavorable implications for that group’s experienced job quality. We articulate the processes by which task segregation can lead to workplace inequality in job quality through an inductive, interview-based case study of airport security-screening workers in a unit of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at a large urban airport. Female workers were disproportionately allocated to the pat-down task, the manual screening of travelers for prohibited items. Our findings suggest that this segregation led to overall poorer job quality outcomes for women. Task segregation overexposed female workers to processes of physical exertion, emotional labor, and relational strain, giving rise to work intensity, emotional exhaustion, and lack of coping resources. Task segregation also seemed to disproportionately expose female workers to managerial sanctions for taking recuperative time off and a narrowing of their skill set that may have contributed to worse promotion chances, pay, satisfaction, and turnover rates for women. We conclude with a theoretical model of how task segregation can act as a mechanism for generating within-job inequality in job quality.

Where Did the Government Jobs Go?

Source: Annie Lowrey, New York Times Magazine, April 27, 2016

Long a ticket to the middle class, especially for African-Americans, they have become increasingly difficult to find. ….

….The public sector has long been home to the sorts of jobs that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. These are jobs that have predictable hours, stable pay and protection from arbitrary layoffs, particularly for those without college or graduate degrees. They’re also more likely to be unionized; less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are represented by a union, while more than a third of those in the public sector are. In other words, they look like the blue-collar jobs our middle class was built on during the postwar years.

The public sector’s slow decimation is one of the unheralded reasons that the middle class has shrunk as the ranks of the poor and the rich have swollen in the post-recession years. This is certainly true in Louisiana, where five of the 10 biggest employers are public institutions, or health centers that in no small part rely on public funds. In Rapides Parish, which includes Pineville, the biggest employer is the school district.

Across the country, when public-sector workers lose their jobs, the burden disproportionately falls on black workers, and particularly women — people like Theresa Jardoin and Linette Richard….

2016 Public Sector Employment Outlook

Source: Melissa Paluch, HR News, Vol. 82 no. 3, March 2016
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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that 2015 ended with 5 percent unemployment, which comes close to the level economists consider full employment. As 2016 cranks up, and against a backdrop of crashing oil prices, tightening money supply from the Federal Reserve, and little excess in the number of job candidates, what is the employment outlook for the public sector?

To investigate this, IPMA-HR conducted its 12th annual Employment Outlook Survey of members. The number of respondents (n=977) was similar to last year’s all-time high (n=1,058). As in previous years, human resources professionals from local, city and county governments were most apt to respond (77 percent), mirroring the composition of IPMA-HR’s membership….

The Facts on Public Pensions

Source: Jennifer Burnett, Council of State Governments & Center for State and Local Government Excellence, April 7, 2016

From the summary:
Public pensions continue to be a topic of great concern to state policymakers across the country. Struggling from years of insufficient contributions, combined with longer-living retiree populations, many states face mounting public pension liabilities. Understanding how your state’s plan compares to others around the country and having access to reliable data about pension plans are both essential to making evidence-based policy decisions. This FREE CSG eCademy session, presented in partnership with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, offers background on the state of public pension systems and introduces a free tool which can be used to inform debates about retirement security issues: Public Plans Data.

Jean-Pierre Aubry
Associate director of state and local research, Center for Retirement Research

David Craik
Pension administrator, Delaware

Elizabeth Kellar
President/CEO, Center for State and Local Government Excellence

Bert Scoglietti
OMB director of policy, Delaware


Understanding Employee Engagement in the Public Sector: The Role of Immediate Supervisor, Perceived Organizational Support, and Learning Opportunities

Source: Myung H. Jin, Bruce McDonald, The American Review of Public Administration, Published online before print April 21, 2016
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From the abstract:
Supervisor support is often argued to be a meaningful predictor of employee engagement; however, existing research has yet to fully support this hypothesis. Drawing from the research on social exchange theory, organizational support theory, and job characteristics model, this study investigates the mediating role of perceived organizational support in the link between supervisor support and employee engagement. How this mediating effect might be moderated by learning opportunities in the job is also considered. Data from a sample of 1,251 employees from state and local government agencies show that supervisor support affects employee engagement both directly and indirectly through its influence on perceived organizational support. In turn, this influences the variance in employee engagement. Results further show that the path linking supervisor support to organizational support is moderated by learning opportunities, such that the positive relationships become invigorated among individuals who reported having opportunities to learn and grow in their job.

Summary of the Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions for 2015: Q4

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, G15-QSPP4, March 31, 2016

For the 100 largest public-employee pension systems in the country, assets (cash and investments) totaled $3,243.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, increasing 0.9 percent from the third quarter level of $3,215.9 billion. This increase in assets is mainly due to positive earnings, as evidenced by a gain of $63.6 billion in the fourth quarter. Compared to the same quarter in 2014, assets for these major public pension systems decreased 3.0 percent from $3,343.6 billion. The major asset categories highlighted in this summary (equities, debt instruments, and cash equivalents) do not reflect all the categories published for the Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions…..

Opinion analysis: Result but no guidance on public unions’ fees

Source: Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog, March 29, 2016

The most important labor union controversy to reach the Supreme Court in years sputtered to an end on Tuesday, with a four-to-four split, no explanation, and nothing settled definitely. The one-sentence result in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will leave intact, but on an uncertain legal foundation, a system of “agency fees” for non-union teachers in California — with the legal doubts for public workers’ unions across the nation probably lingering until a ninth Justice joins the Court at some point in the future.

The practical effect was to leave undisturbed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had simply found itself bound by a prior Supreme Court precedent upholding such fees against constitutional challenge. The Ninth Circuit had before it a case specifically filed as a test of that precedent, and only the Supreme Court could revisit that prior ruling, binding on all lower courts…..

Friedrichs Opinion
Source: Juhyung Harold Lee, OnLabor blog, March 29, 2016

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court has handed down a 4-4 affirmance of the lower court’s opinion in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The Court’s 1977 opinion in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education thus remains good law, and public-sector unions may continue to collect agency fees from nonmembers.

A Narrow Escape for Public-Sector Unions
Source: Matt Ford, The Atlantic, March 29, 2016

The justices split 4-4 in Friedrichs v. CTA, leaving a pro-union ruling in the lower courts intact. …. Tuesday’s deadlock means that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in favor of the teachers’ union will stand. But it also signaled that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who almost certainly joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas on one side of the split, would be willing to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the decision that became the basis for public-employee contracts. That tosses the precedent’s ultimate fate to the next justice who serves on the Court. ….

Supreme Court Deadlocks On Challenge To Union Fees
Source: Nina Totenberg, NPR, March 29, 2016

Split Supreme Court Means A Win For Public Sector Unions
Source: Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed News, March 29, 2016

The Supreme Court split 4-4 on a case over public union fees for non-members, leaving in place a lower court decision that allows the fees to continue.

Mandatory Union Fees Survive as U.S. Supreme Court Deadlocks
Source: Greg Stohr, Bloomberg, March 29, 2016

BREAKING: The Biggest Legal Attack On Unions In Decades Is Dead
Source: Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress, March 29, 2016

Supreme Court deadlocks over public employee union case; Calif. teachers must pay dues
Source: Robert Barnes, Washington Post, March 29, 2016

SCOTUS 4-4 decision hands public sector unions a victory
Source: Ariane de Vogue, CNN, March 29, 2016

Unions Win Fee Victory as Supreme Court Ties 4-4
Source: Adam Liptak, New York Times, March 29, 2016

Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-proof? Were They Ever?

Source: Jason L. Kopelman, Harvey S. Rosen, Public Finance Review, Vol. 44 no. 3, May 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We use data from the Displaced Worker Surveys from 1984 to 2012 to investigate the differences in job loss rates between workers in the public and private sectors. Our focus is on how recessions affect the differential between job loss rates in the two sectors. We find that even after accounting for worker characteristics, the probability of job loss is higher for private sector workers than for public sector workers at all levels of government. The advantage of public sector employment in terms of job loss rates generally increases during recessions for all groups of public sector workers. Thus, the answer to the question posed in the title is that public sector jobs, while not generally recession-proof, do offer more security than private sector jobs, and the advantage widens during recessions. These patterns are present across genders, races, and educational groups.
Other versions:
Are Public Sector Jobs Recession-Proof? Were They Ever?
Source: Jason L. Kopelman, Harvey S. Rosen, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 20692, November 2014
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