Bringing the Economy Home

Nearly 1,000 Idaho State Employees Laid-Off Since 2007

Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

Gov. Otter delivered his State of the State speech at the Capitol on Jan. 9, 2012

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said Idaho will not and has not faced “staggering” state employee layoffs like many other states have during his annual State of the State address delivered Monday.  But what does “staggering” mean?  Idaho has laid-off 928 people over the last five years.  The state’s total workforce has averaged about 24,700 employees during that same time.

The Associated Press reports state and local governments across the country have cut hundreds of thousands of jobs since the recession began.  Some of those cuts mean layoffs. Some cuts mean governments aren’t filling positions that were opened by retirees or people taking new jobs.

We asked the state controller’s office for data showing the number of state government layoffs over the last five years.  This data doesn’t include workers who retired, left their job, or were fired.  It’s important to note the data doesn’t include all public sector workers like public school teachers.

This first chart shows the total number of state government workers according to the controller’s 2012 Rainbow Report compared to the total number of layoffs for the corresponding year.

[spreadsheet key=”0AiLU6Cs5LWZIdEloU0pqd092UG9kTlZqNEJUQnVaY0E” source=”Idaho State Controller” sheet=0 filter=0 paginate=0 sortable=1]

The second chart breaks down layoffs by state agency.  I included only the agencies with the most layoffs. You can see the full data here.  The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare laid off the most people from 2007-2011.  An agency spokesperson says about a third of those layoffs were due to budget* cuts.  The agency has historically been the largest in state government, averaging slightly more than 3,200 employees over the last decade.  The University of Idaho averages the same number of employees. However its current workforce outnumbers Health and Welfare by 834 workers.

[spreadsheet key=”0AiLU6Cs5LWZIdFRlVG1RQmxRNkpxTF9aOU8xSEFwbmc” sheet=0 filter=0 paginate=0 sortable=1]

Source: Idaho State Controller & Idaho Department of Lands | Full Data Set Here

Governor Otter’s budget proposal for the 2013 fiscal year doesn’t include drastic budget cuts like in the previous few years.  But it also doesn’t include large increases to make up for the cuts.  Still, Otter has suggested a 3 percent one-time merit bonus for some public employees. It’s contingent upon the state bringing in a certain amount of revenue.

Department of Health and Welfare spokesperson Emily Simnitt says her agency isn’t talking about more layoffs due to budget reasons.  “We’re hoping there will be enough money for bonuses,” Simnitt says.

Have you been laid-off by the state?  We want to hear from you, comment below or send an email to

* Idaho categorizes layoffs in three ways. Here are the definitions:

  1. Budget: This action allows an agency to layoff an employee due specifically to budget restrictions or shortage of funds.
  2. Work: This action allows an agency to layoff an employee, including limited service employees, due to agency reorganization or a shortage of work.
  3. Medical:This action allows an agency to separate an employee for a layoff pending medical release.


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