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What Do Private-Sector Tech Layoffs Mean for Government?

As private-sector technology companies continue to announce layoffs, state and local government agencies looking for workers to bolster the public-sector workforce may be able to hire some of the skilled talent.

Seven human sillhouettes overlayed with cyan lines to represent charts/tech.
An increasing number of layoffs at companies across the tech industry indicate changing workforce needs; however, this signals potential opportunities for state and local government agencies.

Only years ago, the technology workforce was rapidly expanding in what some call the tech boom, with communities in places such as Florida and Texas attempting to replicate a Silicon Valley-esque ecosystem for the tech space. The COVID-19 pandemic permanently altered the technology workforce in many ways, from the shift to remote work — which remains strong in many areas — to the federal funding that emerged as a result.
According to data from, which tracks layoffs from technology companies using data compiled from public reports, the industry has seen more than 135,000 layoffs this year — and more than 45,000 of those have been in November 2022 alone. So, what does this mean for state and local government?


While the private-sector tech industry faces ongoing headwinds, it is not that simple for the public sector.

According to Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, senior fellow at the National Skills Coalition (NSC), there are two major trends impacting the workforce in the public sector right now, with contrasting effects. First, due to both retirements and burnout for those who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic, many agencies have openings. On the other hand, some agencies are grappling with budget cuts and therefore have fewer openings.

Bergson-Shilcock also noted that there is a wide array of different tech-related jobs in the public sector, ranging from working with a specific agency's legacy software to a job exploring emerging tech in an innovation lab.

Technical skills also play a big factor in securing a public-sector job. Citing research from a forthcoming NSC study, Bergson-Shilcock detailed that for "public administration" job postings in 2021, 56 percent required a “definitely digital” skill and 96 percent required a “likely digital” skill.

While the specific skills needed for a government role vary greatly, from Microsoft Excel knowledge to more complex programming language, there is a range of skills needed and people that can fill those positions.

“So, it does mean that there is potential for folks to make a lateral move from a private-sector tech job into a government tech job,” she said.

And while some economists are pointing to a possible recession, Bergson-Shilcock underlined that because of the unprecedented federal funding through the bipartisan infrastructure law and COVID-19 relief legislation, more opportunities will be available at the state and local level over the next three to five years.

“That spending is going to be job creation spending,” Bergson-Shilcock stated.


At both the local and state level, officials are seeing a potential opportunity in this landscape.

For the city of Philadelphia, officials can see that talent is available, and the task at hand for local agencies is engaging these skilled free agents to bring them into the public sector, explained Eliza Pollack, director of innovation for the city.

She explained that a big part of this effort is creating a desirable culture where people can see and understand their potential to impact others through government work.

One way the city does this is with the Innovation Academy, the city’s core professional development program where employees across city government build their innovation skills. In addition to igniting or reigniting passion among employees, it also helps to offer skill building and professional development.

While hiring and retaining talent is a challenge for all public-sector agencies, Philadelphia Deputy CIO for Innovation Management Andrew Buss explained that there are some specific challenges unique to the technology industry; public-sector salaries are often lower than those in the private sector, and sometimes the public sector offers less flexibility for remote work.

Government agencies need to be vocal about their culture and mission in new ways, such as using social media channels, he said. Similarly, they need to make it clear that whatever technology skills applicants have, there is a way to use them in government.

While the digital skills needed for various government jobs differ greatly, both Buss and Pollack underlined that government is one of the few industries in which somebody can be hired for a role even when their passion outweighs their experience.

Buss noted that government agencies can broaden their talent pool by examining the ways in which they recruit. Rather than simply posting a position on a government website, a strategic and proactive approach that involves going to schools or other community events can help agencies tap into qualified talent that may not otherwise be seeking government jobs.

At the state level, Maryland is an example of using strategic approaches to strengthen its workforce.

The state has worked on broadening its talent pool from several angles, explained Melissa Leaman, assistant secretary of finance and administration and chief of staff for the Maryland Department of Information Technology.

First, earlier this year, the state eliminated a higher education requirement on thousands of state jobs, allowing for a certification in lieu of a traditional degree, which creates a broader candidate pool. Second, the state works with the University of Maryland to tap into that pool of cybersecurity talent with an internship program. The third strategy is the state’s Information Technology Innovative Workforce Solution program, an apprenticeship program managed by two contracted vendors to help individuals outside the IT field gain experience. There's also EARN Maryland, a grant program from the state’s Department of Labor to expand the state’s tech workforce.

This comprehensive approach to filling workforce gaps, paired with the private-sector tech industry layoffs, creates opportunity for the state to tap into this pool of talent.

And Leaman does not expect the trend of layoffs in the private sector to be reflected in the public sector — at least not in Maryland. She credits this in part to Gov. Larry Hogan administration’s reduction of staff.

As Maryland looks to bolster its cybersecurity posture as a result of 2022 legislation, and with about one-third of staff at the age of retiring, the private-sector talent industry may be a space in which Maryland — and other states — can further expand their talent search.

“I think it does allow for us to take advantage of that and hope we retain some more top-level resources,” Leaman said.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.
Andrew Adams is a data reporter for <i>Government Technology</i>. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield.