The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield State University Community on Employment in State Government


Some members of the Westfield State community have mixed feelings about increased unemployment in state government positions in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all career fields, but employment in state government has not recovered as well as other areas.

Employment in state government fell from 131,000 people in March to 122,400 in April, according to recent labor market information released by the state of Massachusetts. This happened in nearly every job category as the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the state’s economy.

However, unlike other job areas, employment in state government did not return to its pre-pandemic numbers. The number of people working in state government reached its lowest point in May at approximately 120,000 employees. It has only increased slightly since then, and was at 121,600 in September, according to the state of Massachusetts.

Tyler Ethier, a sophomore at Westfield State University, has ambitions of working for the state government as a college professor. However, he is not discouraged by low employment numbers in his field. 

“Focusing on teaching jobs, these jobs haven’t fully rebounded because public schools simply haven’t opened the school buildings back up, and aren’t all at full capacity,” he said. “I am still resolute in my desire to become a professor. This pandemic has certainly been difficult for professors and other state employees, but it is only a matter of time until this pandemic is overcome.”

Angelo Puppolo is both a professor at WSU and a state representative. He noted how unemployment became a much bigger part of his job on Beacon Hill since the pandemic began.

“I’ve never really had a tremendous amount of unemployment claims,” he said.

“Having said that, yea I mean with the pandemic, it’s increased dramatically. That’s all we’ve been doing and were doing for a while.”

He also noted, “I don’t think it’s gonna be a robust opportunity to hire new people in the government-industry at least till the next year or two.”

Employment in state government includes a wide variety of jobs. Educators, police officers, elected officials, and even some lawyers all work for the state government. While nearly every job was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, state jobs have had a weaker recovery. 

In March, the federal government unveiled the CARES act, which provides financial assistance to those affected by the pandemic. 

According to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, this act created a temporary program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which provides unemployment benefits to those who are not eligible for other unemployment programs.

Puppolo has had experience with this in his job as a state representative, and noted that a lot of his work consists of “helping people file unemployment claims, helping people get through the CARES Act, helping people have access to additional benefits, so we’ve been swamped. My staff has been dedicated to helping people go through unemployment.”

Ethier had mixed feelings on whether or not employment in state government will improve after the election.

“It is hard to say. On one hand, I do have faith that state government employment will bounce back,” he said. “This is primarily because jobs, such as in education, have been overwhelmingly furloughed because there are students not going into a school building. On the other hand, I can’t say for certain what or when a potent vaccine for COVID-19 will become available for the general population.”

Puppolo noted that the pandemic has greatly affected the day-to-day operations of his job.

“We basically shut down the State House. But we’re still working, I mean obviously doing our work remotely.”

“It’s also affected our budget, where we’re at in terms of legislation. It is tough to work remotely with 160 members and normally having robust debates on issues so it’s difficult to do that remotely.”

“We’re doing the necessary work but it has definitely affected the amount of legislation we would’ve been able to tackle had we been in person,” he said.

He also noted that the federal government will play a major role in helping to increase employment. 

“I do think it’s gonna be around for a while, in terms of unemployment,” he said. “But I do think, if the feds come down with a stimulus package that gives some kind of relief that may help.”

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment assistance oversees the unemployment insurance program, which provides temporary income assistance to eligible workers in Massachusetts.

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