Many unoccupied jobs in the health and construction departments

The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had nearly 1,200 vacant positions in June, making the agency at the forefront of the pandemic one of 46 in the city government missing more than 10% of its expected employees, according to preliminary data obtained. from THE CITY.

The numbers reflect an ongoing challenge in hiring and retaining government workers, an issue that is examined in a hearing Friday under the oversight and investigation committee of city council member Gale Brewer, who produced the preliminary numbers.

They show the citywide job vacancy rate at 7.9% in June. The agency with the most extreme deficit was the Human Rights Commission, which had 37 of the 136 budgeted positions not filled, a rate of 27.2%.

Among the larger agencies, vacancy rates were highest at the Department of Buildings, at 24.2% (489 vacancies), the Department of Health at 19.1% (1,189 vacancies), and the Department of Social Services 17.3% (2,256 vacancies).

The numbers were slightly better in the uniformed agencies of the city.

The Department of Corrections had a shortage of 862 workers in June, or 9.1%, although an extensive trend of employees falling ill exacerbated the problems there.

And while the NYPD had a relatively low vacancy rate of 2.9% in June, which equates to 1,448 vacancies, preliminary numbers show.

“I don’t know where all these vacancies are, but I can tell you from personal experience, everything is slow in terms of approval,” Brewer said. “I’m just worried that the experience we’ve had over the years will disappear from the city.”

He pointed to the recent rehiring of former NYPD Chief and Bureau of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito – to run the application for the Department of Buildings – as an example of municipal skills retention.

Brewer said the problem runs deeper than the overall number of particular agencies, because acute shortages are impacting specific units.

He said he had heard of problems with firefighters, who had 360 open positions at a 2% vacancy rate in June regarding inspections of childcare facilities and restaurants.

Fire officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As previously reported by THE CITY, staff shortages within specific units of the Department of Conservation and Housing Development threatened to undermine the creation of affordable housing.

Overall, the agency was short-staffed by 400 positions in June, or 15%, as preliminary numbers show.

The staff shortage has also contributed to slowing housing for the city’s homeless, according to NY1.

Look for the causes

The city’s independent budget office last week reported a citywide job vacancy rate of 7.9%, up from 1.6% in January 2020.

IBO spokesperson Elizabeth Brown said the office is currently investigating shortages, but the hiring freeze set up by former Mayor Bill de Blasio from March 2020 to April 2021 during the height of the COVID crisis was a factor. who contributed.

“What we’re trying to do is try to figure out if departures are accelerating or if it’s taking longer to hire people,” Brown said.

Additionally, Brown noted, the biggest drop in the number of municipal employees came in October 2021, just after de Blasio instituted a full-time return-to-office mandate for city workers and shortly before his mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine for municipal workers went into effect.

Mayor Eric Adams has repeatedly stressed the importance of private and public sector workers returning to work in person, a priority that his chief of staff, Frank Carone, brought home in a note sent to municipal workers in May.

“As hybrid schedules have become more common in the private sector, the mayor firmly believes the city needs its workers to show up for work every day in person,” Carone wrote, according to PoliticoNY.

City Hall spokesman Fabien Levy said he could not immediately comment on the preliminary figures, but noted that the shortages did not impact operations and that the city continues to aggressively recruit additional employees.

“In the early months of his administration, Mayor Adams built a diverse and highly talented team focused on delivering results and getting things done for New Yorkers,” he said. “And in these first eight months we have done just that despite a labor shortage that has affected almost all sectors nationwide, including the government.”

Brewer said he believes the city needs to change some aspects of its hiring practices or be more flexible in adapting to hybrid work schedules, at least for the foreseeable future.

“I know it needs to be fixed,” he said.

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