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October 22, 2008

Massachusetts ranks 39th in government employees per capita

The Census Bureau today released its every-5-year tabulation of state and local government workers, and the Bay State is on the low end of the workforce scale. (The Census Bureau's press release is typically horrible in terms of providing links to complete data; go here to get your stats.)

In 2007, Massachusetts had the equivalent of 332,957 full-time people working for state and local government (299,320 full-time employees and 92,864 part-timers.) That added up to 516 employees for every 10,000 people living in the state, or well below most states. The main reason for our low ranking seemed to be our reliance on the private sector for "eds and meds," or educational degrees and medical treatment. Only 3 percent of our public employees worked in hospitals (compared with 6 percent nationwide), and 9 percent worked in higher education (compared with 12 percent nationwide). We also had a relatively light number of people working in corrections and prison departments (2.6 percent of all public workers vs. 4.5 percent nationwide). Compared with other states, a larger proportion of our workforce were employed in elementary and secondary schools, police departments, and fire departments.

Wyoming had the most public employees per capita (915 per 10,000 residents), thanks to public hospitals and a large highways department. It was followed by Alaska (lots of highways, again, plus workers in the "natural resources" field) and Kansas (where 59 percent of all government employees worked in education, compared with 54 percent both in Massachusetts and nationwide).

The lightest public workforce was in Nevada (430 goverment employees per 10,000 residents), one of the few states where less than half of government employees worked in education. It was followed by Arizona and Pennsylvania -- which, like Massachusetts, had few public workers in hospitals.

From 1997 to 2007, the full-time-equivalent number of state and local employees grew by 15 percent nationally, led by a 21 percent jump in public education jobs. At the same time, the public payroll dropped by 0.7 percent in Massachusetts, thanks to the 51 percent drop in hospital jobs and a 23 percent decrease in correctional jobs. But employees in education went up by 22 percent, from 148,272 to 180,973.

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