RALEIGH, N.C. — Job openings across the board have become a more common occurrence. One of the biggest employers having trouble filling these openings is the state of North Carolina. 

What You Need To Know

  • State employee pay lags behind the market by 14.8% over the last 10 years

  • The state Senate budget proposal being voted on this week includes an average 5% pay raise — with added salary for hard-to-fill jobs

  •  Employees say private sector jobs are taking more and more state employees because of the difference in pay

State job openings have continued to grow as more and more workers are opting for private-sector jobs. 

According to the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources, there was a 23% vacancy rate in December 2022, a 4% year-over-year increase.

Some employees believe one of the main reasons for the increase revolves around money. 

“People on the ground don’t have anyone to speak for them,” James Holman, a UNC employee, said. 

Holman is talking about state employees, a group that he says has been undervalued for far too long.

“State wages can’t compete with the private sector,” Holman said. “People can go out here to Walmart or a fast-food restaurant and make more than they make for the state.”

Holman is right about the pay gap. According to OSHR, state employee pay has lagged the market by 14.8% over the last 10 years. Offsetting the pay gap are health care benefits that state employees have. 

However, Holman says he’s worked for UNC for 18 years now, but it’s becoming less and less common for employees to stay that long.

“If we hire somebody, they stay here for a few months and then they leave because they find a better job that’s paying more money,” Holman said. 

Along with his day-to-day job, Holman serves as a district chair for the state employees association of North Carolina. He says he continues to fight for better pay and benefits for his colleagues. They are people, he says, the state can’t afford to lose. 

“They’ve got a lot of dedicated employees here. It’s getting to the point where we’re going to lose a lot of good help,” Holman said. “We’re definitely going to lose a lot of good people.”

Legislators are looking to boost pay for state employees in hopes of closing these crucial gaps.  

Gov. Roy Cooper has proposed an 8% raise for all state employees over the next two years. 

The state House budget, which passed in April, called for a 7.5% raise for most state employees over two years, with an additional 2% for hard-to-fill jobs. And the Senate budget being voted on this week has an average 5% pay raise, with added salary for hard-to-fill jobs.