According to figures from comprehensive annual financial reports of the State Employees’ Retirement System, the number of employees covered by that system was 81,680 as of June 30, 2002. That would be during the final year of Republican Gov. George Ryan’s single term. Back in 1994, when Republican Gov. Jim Edgar was on the way to winning his second term, the number was 78,440.
The big drop came by the summer of 2003, when the number fell nearly 11,500 from the previous year to 70,192. Most left under an early retirement initiative that thousands decided to take as Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich came into office.
The reported figure as of June 30, 2013 — which generally includes state workers other than legislators and judges in executive, legislative and judicial branches, but doesn’t include higher education institutions — was 61,545.
Thus, the number of state employees dropped by more than 20,100 people — nearly 25 percent of the workforce — from 2002 to 2013.