Public-sector jobs losing appeal

For years, local governments lured good employees into relatively low-paying jobs with the promise of generous benefits.

Recession is changing that.

The question now, some say, is whether high-quality employees will want to work for government in the future.

City of Columbia employees, for example, have not had to pay for their health insurance for decades — an offer that extended into retirement if they stayed withthe city for 20 years or more.

Now, however, the city’s revenues are decreasing and its health insurance costs are increasing. As a result, all active city employees will pay more for less coverage starting July 1. City Council also is expected to require retirees younger than 65 to do the same.

Part of the problem is that city government has become too big, some city staffers and council members say.

To shrink its payroll, the city plans furloughs and may use employee buyouts, increasingly seen in state and federal government as well.

The end result? Smaller government agencies offering less job security and fewer benefits, making public-sector jobs less appealing to workers.