California state worker retirements from January through July rose by 13 percent over a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the California Public Employees' Retirement System, spiking shortly after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger started employee furloughs in February.
An anticipated surge driven by an aging work force accounts for part of the trend. Many cities and counties across the state have furloughed workers, cut pay and offered early retirement incentives to move some employees out.
But the state hasn't offered its employees any "golden handshakes." Instead, furloughs – combined with more work and a sense that their employer is in decline – have prodded some state workers into retiring sooner than they'd planned.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokesman, Aaron McLear, wouldn't say whether the administration sees the increasing rate of state workers entering retirement as a positive or a negative.
"It's always tough to replace experienced senior level state workers," McLear said, "but we've been preparing for the bubble of baby boomer retirements since before the economic slowdown. We'll continue to provide services for the people of California."
California's sharp increase in public employee retirements this year upends a national survey that indicates state and local government workers are putting off taking a pension.
California's public employees might be going against the trend for a variety of reasons. Furloughs and layoffs have cut pay and staffing, but not workloads. And, she said, public anger is rising toward civil service workers over things like job security and benefits, especially during the economy's rough patch.