Data & Resources

Human resources


City staff are key to providing core community services

Cities are people-intensive operations. Many of the services we count on in our cities are carried out by experienced staff. These are the people who invest their time and energy to deliver the best services to their neighbors and make a difference in their communities. Great employees are the key to providing excellent city services.

From public safety, to street maintenance, to recreational activities, residents rely on our dedicated public servants for a host of services. Cities recognize the value of competitive wages and benefits and know that in order to attract the best and brightest to careers in public service, cities must offer competitive compensation. However, cities around the state indicate concern that employee wage growth will continue to outpace city revenue growth.

New state wage and benefit mandates have further increased the cost of doing business for most cities, in addition to cost increases surrounding the competitive nature of Washington’s job market. Despite rapid growth in many parts of the state, cities continue to struggle to balance community needs with budgetary constraints.

Overall, the growth in city staffing levels does not keep up with population increases in our fast-growing communities—meaning fewer city employees are serving more residents.


In most cities, revenue growth has not kept pace with wage growth

Many cities express concern over rising costs associated with employee wages. In the last five years, wages in 56% of cities have risen faster than city revenues. Furthermore, cities are worried about future costs associated with state mandates including increases to the state minimum wage, changes in prevailing wage polices, and state-led efforts amending standards on overtime eligibility.

Cities recognize the value of competitive wages, but need state leaders to consider the larger impacts on public budgets before finalizing new personnel and wage policies.

Since 2000, the number of city personnel per 1,000 population has decreased by 19%, while Washington’s population has grown over 28%.

To address the changes in personnel, cities need:

  1. State consideration of cities’ budgets when implementing new personnel and wage policies.
  2. Assistance funding employee benefits and wage increases mandated by the state.


In the last five years, wages of city employees increased 16% on average, while 56% of cities have seen revenues grow less than 16%.


State expanded benefits have increased personnel costs across the board

In addition to the overall spike in labor costs, statemandated increases of employee benefits are impacting city budgets throughout Washington. In the last few years, state increases to employer-paid pension programs and expanded workers’ compensation benefits have required city employers to bear the burden of cost increases.


Workers’ compensation rates for firefighters have increased 13% in the past three years and the rate for law enforcement grew by 23%.

The statewide fiscal impact on local government is still unknown. New costs mandated by the statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave law will require cities to fund employer-paid premiums and additional expenditures to backfill positions, update and process payroll, cover collective bargaining costs, and process employee eligibility and benefits appeals.

Cities need the state to address the financial impacts created by mandates for new or expanded benefits to public employees.


Since 2012, the PERS employer pension contribution rate has increased by 82%.


City workforce growth trends mirror economic and population growth

Cities likely to maintain or decrease workforce
Cities with a population less than 2,500 indicate that they are much less likely than other cities to expand their workforce in the coming years. Most of these cities are small rural communities or metro mid-size cities outside of urban core centers.

Cities likely to increase workforce
Most of the cities that plan to increase the size of their workforce are in a better financial and budgetary position than average. Metro midsize cities in urban cores, rural commercial and regional centers, and tourism hubs are more likely to increase the size of their workforce.

This data suggests that workforce growth is correlated with increased community need and economic activity. Cities facing both growth and decline need state support to help keep pace with community needs.




City workforce trends continue to mirror patterns in economic and population growth. However, increased wages and benefits instituted at the state level significantly impact the ability of cities to keep up with service demand. Cities have no control over these significant cost drivers and must weigh the increased costs with either revenue increases or service reductions. Cities need the continued support and consideration of state lawmakers to ensure cities have the best personnel to effectively and efficiently serve our communities.


Next chapter: Infrastructure

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