Wisconsin Falls Back to 8th Lowest in Public Sector Employment

Friday, April 22, 2011 at 10:58 PM by

Budget Project Updates Public Sector Employment Issue Brief and Tax Quiz

One of the issue briefs we write each year is an analysis of state and local government employment statistics collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s a popular brief because it undermines some of the misconceptions about public sector employment in Wisconsin.

We reissued that analysis last fall, using the March 2009 survey data issued by the Census Bureau at that time. We reported that Wisconsin still had a low level of public sector workers compared to other states, but we noted that our state had climbed a little bit closer to the national average – ranking 38th in the number of state and local workers as a percentage of the state population.

Although our analysis was correct, it turns out that the initial survey data was not. We recently caught up to the fact that in January of this year the Census Bureau revised the results of that public sector survey, and the updated data erased the previously reported uptick in the 2009 employment level of government workers in our state. Our new analysis of the revised data show that only 8 other states had fewer state and local government workers in March 2009, relative to the size of the state population.


Here are some of the other highlights from our latest analysis of the revised data from the March 2009 survey:

  • Wisconsin’s state and local government employment level is 7.9% below the national average.
  • Per capita spending for the salaries and wages of public sector workers in Wisconsin is 8.8 percent below the national average and ranks 30th nationally.
  • The March 2009 payroll per public employee in Wisconsin was 0.9% below the national average, but Wisconsin was above the median on that measure, ranking 18th.

We have updated our issue brief on these topics (2010 Issue Brief #5), and we also updated our quiz about state and local taxes, spending and employment. Check out the Budget Project’s updated quiz here.

Jon Peacock 
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