The State Worker

California state employee retirements plummet in 2014

The number of state workers who filed pension papers dropped sharply during the first quarter of this year compared with 2013, according to new CalPERS data, while March extended a record-setting string of months that retirement rates have declined.

The numbers suggest that government work has become more attractive to the kind of long-time employees who just a few years ago were exiting en masse, chased by furloughs, higher pension contribution rates and many years of stagnant pay. In mid-2013, however, furloughs ended at the same time raises kicked in for senior employees. Around that same time, SEIU Local 1000 – which presents half the state’s 180,000 unionized workforce – negotiated a new contract with raises that will likely kick in this summer. Other unions soon followed with their own agreements containing modest raises.

That brightening outlook shows up in the CalPERS data as a record 10-straight-months decline in retirement applications. Another telling sign: January-through-March retirements this year dropped a 18.9 percent, the sharpest quarterly decline recorded by CalPERS since it started tracking the data in 2007.