Five Things You Might Not Know About Public Employees in Wisconsin

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 8:05 PM by

1. Compared to other states, Wisconsin has a lean public sector
In 2010, Wisconsin had 6 percent fewer state and local government employees relative to our population than the national average, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data. Wisconsin had a leaner public sector than all but 11 states in 2010, the most recent year for which there are figures.

The Wisconsin Budget Project has published an analysis of state and local government employment levels in Wisconsin and nationally, which can be found here.

2. Relative to our population, the number of public employees in Wisconsin has declined over the last decade
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of state and local government employees in Wisconsin relative to population declined by 4 percent. The chart below shows that there have year to year fluctuations, but the overall trend over the last decade has been downward in the size of our public sector relative to population. Over the same period, the national average for the number of state and local government workers relative to population slightly increased.

3. Public sector workers in WI earn less than their private sector counterparts, benefits included
Full time state and local government employees in Wisconsin earn 4.2 percent less in salary and benefits than their counterparts in the private sector, a recent research study by the Economic Policy Institute showed.

This study controlled for education, experience, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, disability and hours worked, and was therefore able to establish a better “apples to apples” comparison than other studies that simply compared pay levels in the public and private sectors.

4. There are nearly three times as many local government employees in Wisconsin than there are state employees
In 2010, there were 214,000 local government full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in Wisconsin, compared to 72,000 state government FTEs, according to Census Bureau figures.

5. More than half of state and local government workers in Wisconsin work in education
Four out of ten public employees in Wisconsin work in K-12 education, and another 17 percent work in higher education.

A large part of the public sector employees that work in other areas work for police and fire departments, in corrections, in human services, and on highways. The chart below shows the breakdown of public employees in Wisconsin.

Thanks to Liz McNichol at Center for Policy and Budget Priorities for the inspiration for this post.

Tamarine Cornelius

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