New Data Shows Wisconsin Still Has a Lean Public Sector

Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 3:52 PM by

Wisconsin continues its decade-long trend of having fewer state and local employees than the national average, according to a new issue brief by the Wisconsin Budget Project. The analysis is based on U.S. Census Bureau data and shows that Wisconsin has 51.8 state and local government employees (FTEs) per thousand residents, 4.4 percent below the national average of 54.2 FTEs. Wisconsin ranks 38th in this measure nationally, meaning only 12 states have fewer state and local government FTEs per capita.

Wisconsin is also lower than the national average in payroll spending for government employees. The per capita spending for payroll for all state and local employees in Wisconsin was 8.7 percent below average and ranked 30th. The payroll per FTE was 4.5 percent below the national average, although Wisconsin was above the median on that measure, ranking 21st nationally.

The total number of state and local government employees (FTEs) in Wisconsin grew slightly between 2008 and 2009, with the biggest growth in the technical college system.

According to the Census Bureau data, local employment in higher education grew by 2,384 FTEs in 2009 (mostly through an increase in hours of part-time staff). That can be explained by the sharp enrollment increases in technical colleges (+20.6% over the past two years) as more unemployed and underemployed workers seek new job skills.

The issue brief notes that federal aid to states in the Recovery Act was one of several factors that have kept public sector employment in Wisconsin from falling in 2009 and 2010.

The complete brief can be viewed here.

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