The number of California state employees entering retirement is at its lowest level in four years, according to the latest CalPERS data, underscoring that the economic and political headwinds that once blew against government work have eased.
From January through September of this year, 8,035 state employees put in their retirement papers, the fewest for the nine-month period since 7,143 applied for their pensions in 2009.
September's 708 applications marked a 30 percent decline from a year ago and the lowest state retirements tally for the month since the pre-furlough days of 2008.
"I think it is a combination of the fact that a lot of employees have retired in the past few years coupled with the more positive tone that is currently permeating public finance in California," said Pepperdine state budget expert Michael Shires.
He credited the economic impact of Silicon Valley's rebound and "the absence of a negative budget cycle" with giving employees a bit more security after several years of turmoil.
And while the state lowered retirement benefits for new pension fund members, the formula changes bypassed employees hired before Jan. 1 of this year. That boundary ended -- for now anyway -- talk of dialing back benefits for workers who joined their pension funds before the new limitations kicked in.
"As a result, they are more comfortable staying put," Shires said.
The number of retirement applications from all CalPERS members -- employees of state and local governments, schools and special districts -- was down 0.3 percent for the first three quarters of this year, fund data show.
Take state workers out of the mix, however, and CalPERS fielded some 15,701 applications by non-state employees, virtually unchanged from last year.
Click here for more detailed spreadsheets and charts that show the last six years of CalPERS service retirement application statistics.