Report: Wisconsin state employees leave at high rates

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s public employees left their jobs last year at the highest rate seen in the last two decades, according to an analysis from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

It even eclipses the retirement bump seen in the wake of 2011 Act 10, though now workers are opting to leave instead of retire.

“You can think of it as people being fired, even think of it as people quitting and taking other jobs, becoming a stay-at-home parent,” said Ari Brown, a WPF researcher.

Brown’s group used data from the Wisconsin Retirement System — the state’s pension — which includes many state and municipal employees. It provides data on how many are leaving the system and the method but does not provide insight into specifics like whether more teachers are leaving compared to game wardens.

The loss of those employees also lowers the average age of the state’s public workforce, as well as the average experience of those that remain. In 2010, the average public employee had 12 years of experience; now it is down to 11.

“I think anyone who’s in any job right now can think of how much they can learn in that job over the course of a year — and you apply that to hundreds of thousands of employees,” Brown said.

Some options to mitigate the loss could be to make workplaces more inviting, like increasing flexibility, or at a base level increasing salaries.

“I think just a lot of new job opportunities opened up when companies realized that they can actually shift a lot of their stuff online,” Brown said. “That opened up a lot of new possibilities.”