State jobs

If a job remains unfilled for months, or even years, should the job even exist?

State government has almost 1,500 openings for permanent, full-time positions, and an additional 1,000 vacancies in seasonal and temporary jobs. During a legislative hearing last month, some lawmakers - notably Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas - expressed displeasure that more wasn't being done to fill those jobs, considering Nevada's nation-leading 12 percent unemployment rate. According to a Monday Review-Journal report, state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp responded by hiring a full-time recruitment officer and sending memos to department heads, advising them to bypass the centralized hiring bureaucracy and act on their own to fill jobs.

Still, the state's current 8.8 percent vacancy rate is about what it has been since the economy began its nosedive five years ago.

During regular sessions of the Legislature, hearings on bills that change or expand the duties of agencies generally compel administrators to testify they'll need more money and staff. Today, some of those same people are quick to claim that furloughs, pay cuts and no prospects for pay raises deter qualified people from applying for state jobs. The solution in both circumstances, as always, is more tax money.

Everyone in this state knows several people who have been hammered by the economic downturn - someone who has lost a job or is underemployed, in need of stability. That goes for state workers, too. So why hasn't a word-of-mouth hiring campaign carried out by state workers themselves?

Perhaps many of the state's openings aren't critical. On Monday, the Clark County Commission eliminated 346 jobs that had been vacant for more than a year.

Next year, instead of demanding that agencies pull out all the stops to hire people, lawmakers might want to suggest that some vacant positions get the ax.