State and local employees for the most part are satisfied with their jobs but they made it clear that had it not been for the retirement benefits, health insurance and pension in particular, they likely would be working in the public sector.

New research by the National Institute on Retirement found that an overwhelming majority (92%) of state and local employees believe that eliminating pensions will weaken governments' ability to attract and retain qualified workers, while 83% said a pension void would weaken public safety; 87% said it would weaken the U.S. education system.

Eliminating benefits could have severe workforce consequences, the research found. Seventy-three percent said they would be more likely to leave their job if their pension were cut, and 79% said they would be more likely to leave their job if their healthcare benefits were cut.

Moreover, more than half of state and local employees (58%) indicate that switching them out of a pension into an individual retirement plan, like a 401(k) plan, would make them more likely to leave their job.

State and local workers view pensions as a powerful recruitment and retention tool. Nearly all (93%) said pensions incentivize public workers to have long public service careers, while 94% said offering a pension is a good tool for attracting and retaining employees.

Further, the vast majority of state and local employees (94%) said the most important features of the defined benefit pensions are the lasting retirement income and monthly checks. As such, 89% said they plan to stay with their current employer until they are eligible for retirement or can no longer work.

And while most public workers feel they will be financially secured in retirement, they also are concerned about cuts to retirement benefits and government officials underfunding of pension plans. Nearly three-fourths (72%) are confident they will be financially secure in retirement. But, 86% are worried about cuts to their retirement benefits and 85% are concerned about government officials underfunding their pension.

Across generations, millennials working in state and local government generally share the views of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers on their job, serving the public, pay, and benefits. A majority of millennials (84%) working in state and local government are satisfied with their job, while 90% say they are committed to serving the public.