State hiring freezes tend to melt away

Hiring freezes are among the most common ways state and local governments try to address budget problems, but they’re not always effective, Melissa Maynard says at For starters, there are always exceptions, like the need to maintain staffing for ’round-the-clock police and corrections operations. And invariably, attrition will cost agencies employees with skills not replaceable from within.

Oklahoma state government has been under a hiring freeze for 20 years, Maynard reports, largely because no governor wants the fallout from ending it. Despite that, many agencies have experienced significant growth.

“It’s always done with a lot of fanfare… and it either ends quietly or extremely quietly,” says a legislator in Delaware, another state with a history of freezes. “Then when you look at the numbers, it’s hard to tell if it even accomplished anything.”