Michigan local government leaders report increased problems with workforce recruitment, retention, and other issues

February 2023

This report presents the opinions of Michigan’s local government leaders on a range of issues regarding their jurisdictions’ workforce, including recruitment, retention, and retirement turnover. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders from the Spring 2022 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), with comparisons to the Spring 2017 MPPS wave.

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Key findings

  • Statewide, 92% of Michigan’s local governments report having some kind of paid employees (full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary), while 8% say they have none at all.  These levels are essentially unchanged from 2017. 
  • Nearly all Michigan counties and cities report having full-time employees and the overwhelming majority also have part-time employees. Meanwhile, 75% of villages and just 31% of townships report having full-time employees. 
  • Recruiting employees with the necessary skills is a common problem, reported by 60% of Michigan’s local leaders in 2022, up from 48% in 2017. Only 16% of jurisdictions statewide say recruiting is not a problem at all. 
  • Among jurisdictions with over 30,000 residents, 89% report this recruitment is a problem, including 41% who say it is a significant problem. Among mid-sized jurisdictions with between 5,001-10,000 residents, reports of significant recruitment problems have tripled in the past five years, up to 28% in 2022 from 9% in 2017. 
  • Retaining current employees is a growing problem as well, reported by 32% of jurisdictions with employees in 2022, up sharply from 17% in 2017. 
  • Two-thirds (64%) of jurisdictions with over 30,000 residents have problems retaining current employees, up from 43% in 2017. Among jurisdictions with 5,001-10,000 residents, retention problems have more than tripled in the past five years to 37%, up from 12%. Meanwhile, even in the state’s smallest jurisdictions—those with fewer than 1,500 residents—that have any type of paid employee, retention problems have increased to 26%, up from 17%. 
  • Local leaders express concern about a variety of other workforce problems, especially in Michigan’s largest jurisdictions, among whom 62% report problems with turnover due to retirements, 58% note problems with employee workload, 54% identify low employee morale, and 48% report challenges due to hostile interactions from the public. 
  • Among places where local leaders report their employees have recently experienced harassment or other abuse, 79% say new employee recruitment is a problem (including 40% who say it is a significant problem); by comparison, 52% of jurisdictions that did not report harassment by the public have recruitment problems. Similarly, employee retention problems are more likely to be reported among jurisdictions that have experienced harassment or other abuse against non-elected jurisdiction personnel (45% vs 25%).