- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

Pink-slipped by the state?

The damage so far stands at 537, the official headcount of people laid off by the State of North Carolina.

The N.C. Office of State Personnel says that’s the total they’ve gotten of people who have lost their jobs in various state agencies since the beginning of the year.

Most of the 537 – 410 of them– got their pink slips after April 15. Agencies have to give worker’s 30 days notice before eliminating their position.

That total job loss number comes with a significant asterisk, as you might imagine, and is much lower than the thousands of publicly-funded positions thought to be eliminated when the $19.7 billion state budget [1] passed earlier this month.

(There has yet to be an agreed-upon job loss number, with Democrats and education groups saying this year’s budget will cost 13,000 positions and GOP leaders in the state legislature maintaining it will be far less because of vacancies and retirements.)

Regardless, it’s close to being among the biggest, if not the biggest, layoff of state personnel in recent history. The last time a large number of state workers lost their jobs was in 1991/1992, when about 200 people lost their jobs, according to the Office of State Personnel.

The 537 pink-slipped figure is most likely higher, and only captures a portion of the people in state-funded jobs losing their paychecks, said Margaret Jordan, an OSP spokeswoman.

Agencies don’t always report their “reductions-in-force” in a timely manner to the state personnel office. Nor does OSP keep track of the state-funded positions in community colleges and public schools around the state.

Reports have trickling in from individual school districts about custodians, teacher assistants, teachers and assistant principals losing their jobs. In Cumberland County [2], 374 positions were eliminated; in rural Duplin County [3], 210 people got laid off with more than half of those cuts happening in classrooms.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction won’t know what the total job losses are to individual school districts until later this summer, according to Vanessa Jeter, DPI’s spokeswoman. The state education agency had cuts of 10 percent, or 101 positions eliminated, from its ranks.

Another state agency, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, went from 3,918 to 2,900 staffers. Most of those jobs were transferred to other agencies, but at least 88 people have gotten notices that their job no longer exists, said Diana Kees, a DENR spokeswoman.

Among the programs cut are a state team that oversees the testing of private wells for dangerous toxins, and a wildlife pest management team that monitors tick and pest populations across the state to avoid any widespread illnesses or breakouts.

More jobs could still be lost at DENR, with cuts expected at the federal level and with less revenue coming in to the department given the slowing economy.

“We could have more layoffs,” Kees said.

We also called the office of Gov. Bev Perdue to see how they plan on keeping track of the job losses being processed at the state level, but her communications office didn’t return calls for comment. We’ll update this post if we hear from them.

In the meantime, we’re interested in talking with state workers who have gotten their pink slips, and are willing to share their stories. If you’ve gotten laid off, please drop us a line. Reporter Sarah Ovaska can be reached at 861-1463 or sarah@ncpolicywatch.com.


UPDATE: Gov. Bev Perdue’s gave us a call back Wednesday morning, and they say they’re anticipating 3,000 positions eliminated in non-education state agencies as a result of that budget. About 1,000 of those are occupied, said Chris Mackey, a Perdue spokeswoman.

Cuts to education – public schools, community colleges and the state’s universities system – will be much larger, Mackey said. The N.C. Office of Budget and Management will be tracking the job losses as agencies submit their action plans of how to deal with the cuts.