New data shows New Jersey's public work force has been depleted in recent years, with staffing levels in many departments now at their lowest levels in decades.
The annual Civil Service Commission report obtained by The Star-Ledger of Newark shows there were 76,956 state employees in all three branches of government at the end of 2010. That's the lowest total since 2002 and roughly 3,000 less than when Gov. Chris Christie took office in January 2010.
Departments showing significant decreases in staff include health and senior services; law and public safety; corrections; education and environmental protection.
Analysts say the overall drop in staff is mostly due to a massive wave of retirements spurred by recent pension and benefits reforms, along with state budget cuts and the struggling economy. Some say the reduction in force hampers the state's ability to act as a safety net on a wide array of important issues, while others say the data reflects a new sobriety in state government.
But one of the few areas that saw an increase in employees is the governor's office, which at 120 is at its highest since 2006 but still below historic levels. Officials say the increase of 12 employees under Christie reflects staff assigned to the newly created office of lieutenant governor and to the first lady.
The report also showed that while the size of state government shrinks, salaries are going up. In 2006, the average state worker earned $54,274, but the average last year was $65,179.