The Impact of the Economic Downturn on Environmental Health Services and Professionals in North Carolina

The objective of the authors' study was to examine the impact of the economic recession on the environmental health profession between budget year (BY) 2006-2007 and BY 2010-2011 in the following areas: (1) environmental health department fees for services; (2) changes in staffing levels, benefits, or pay; (3) changes in staff responsibilities; and (4) the impact to the private environmental sector compared to public environmental health professionals. Data were summarized from the following surveys: North Carolina Environmental Health Supervisors Association Fee and Economic Surveys; University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Government Current Salary Index; and a created online survey of private-sector environmental professionals. Total fees in the public sector for services have risen for most environmental health departments, but not enough to offset budget reductions. All of the counties that participated in the survey either have reduced staff, pay, or benefits due to budget cuts, and some counties utilized staff in other areas through cross-training. The private environmental sector also reduced staff in response to a reduced workload. Public sector employers may have difficulties retaining existing employees and recruiting new employees over the long term in the current economic climate.

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