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Counties in U.S. Employ Fewer Workers Than in 2010, Survey Shows

October 20, 2011

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Most U.S. counties have fewer employees this fiscal year than in 2010, as managers cut jobs to cope with struggling local economies, a national survey shows.

Employment fell in 66 percent of counties responding this month to a questionnaire, according to a report released today by the Washington-based National Association of Counties. More administrators imposed hiring freezes than fired workers, by 40 percent to 26 percent, the report shows.

Only about a third, 35 percent, said they passed balanced 2012 budgets with no anticipated shortfalls. Among those with revenue that trailed spending, half blamed declines in state or federal aid and about a third said receipts fell from property or sales taxes or both.

“Counties have not seen any major upswings in the last two or three years, so they’re making the tough decisions about how they’re going to continue delivering services,” Jacqueline Byers, the organization’s research director, said by telephone. More than two years after the 18-month recession ended in June 2009, “local economies affecting county governments continue to struggle toward recovery,” she said in the report.

Most of the counties, 64 percent, said their credit ratings hadn’t changed as a result of budget-balancing actions, while a quarter said their grades had been raised and 11 percent reported cuts.

Local property-tax receipts will fall for the next two years as assessments catch up with declines in market values, according to a National League of Cities report last month. The Washington-based organization also cited “the struggling economy” that has depressed consumer purchases, curbing collections from sales levies.

Employment by local governments has dropped 3.7 percent, or 535,000 jobs, from a September 2008 peak of 14.6 million, according to U.S. Labor Department data compiled by Bloomberg.

The survey of counties drew on 233 responses from 38 states, the association said. It sent questionnaires to 2,000.

--Editors: Ted Bunker, Mark Tannenbaum.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Chappatta in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at

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