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Does NH need to pay state employees more?

Aug 03, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

Governor Chris Sununu is in the middle of a battle with state employees over their next contract. 

One point of disagreement: pay raises for state employees. 

Public worker shortages caused by low wages?

In an editorial published August 1, an employee for the state Department of Transportation stated that New Hampshire needs to raise wages to address a large shortage of public workers. 

Worker shortages have also caused highly publicized problems for the Department of Corrections, the state hospital, and the Division of Children, Youth, and Families.

Union representatives argue higher wages will help fill these empty positions.

“We can't help fix problems with state staffing if the state refuses to address the wage inequalities with the private sector.”

- Rich Gulla, president of the State Employees Association (SEA). 

How low are public employee wages?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the end of 2016 state employees in New Hampshire earned, on average, $963 per week.  Private sector workers, on the other hand, earned $1,117 per week in New Hampshire.  

Only Washington, D.C. had a larger gap between average public and private sector wages. 

Are public workers actually paid less than private workers?

On the other hand, if benefits packages are included in calculations, compensation for New Hampshire state employees may actually exceed private compensation.

According to a 2014 study from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, when considering health care, retirement, and other benefits, compensation for state employees is 10% higher than compensation for private employees in New Hampshire. 

Other causes of a public worker shortage?

Others point out there is also a shortage of qualified workers in the private sector.  This is particularly true in the health care field.

“The workforce in the private sector is mimicked in the public sector. We have a hard time recruiting and we are not the only state. Most states, especially in the New England region, are having a real challenge recruiting good people into government jobs.”

- Gov. Chris Sununu

So long as there is a shortage of qualified workers in New England, raising wages won’t be enough to fill empty government jobs.

To learn more about the shortage of qualified workers in certain fields, visit our issue page on Jobs, Trades, and Skills Training

Negotiations continue

The current state employee contract expired at the end of June.  Employees continue to work under the old contract’s terms until their unions can reach a new agreement with Sununu.

Do you think New Hampshire needs to raise public employee wages to attract qualified workers?  Share your thoughts in the comments.


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Christopher Sununu

NH Governor (2016 - present); Executive Councilor (2010 - 2016); Owner/Director, Sununu Enterprises; CEO, Waterville Valley Ski Resort; Strategic Consultant; Environmental Engineer


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