Wisconsin Government Employment at Record Low


January 21, 2015

The number of public employees in Wisconsin compared to the state’s population has dropped to its lowest level in at least two decades, according to a Wisconsin Budget Project analysis of newly-released figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Wisconsin Budget Project is an independent Madison-based research group that focuses on tax and budget policy.

“Public employees in Wisconsin teach our children, repair our transportation network, and keep our communities safe – all activities that help make Wisconsin a good place to do business and raise families,” said Cornelius. “We need to make sure we have enough public employees to have the kind of efficient, effective public sector that can improve the state’s economic competitiveness as well as the quality of life for Wisconsin families.”

Wisconsin has 5.9% fewer state and local government employees per capita than the national average. Wisconsin ranks 42nd in the number of government workers per population.

“It might surprise some people to know that only eight other states had a leaner public sector than Wisconsin, but we’ve had fewer government workers per population than the national average for at least two decades now,” said Cornelius.

Fewer government employees means that Wisconsin governments spend less on public payrolls. For each person that lived in the state, Wisconsin spent 7.7% less than the national average on public payrolls.

Another reason public payroll costs in Wisconsin are low is that public employees in Wisconsin earn less than the national average. The payroll per employee in Wisconsin was 1.9% below the national average.

Most public employees work in schools, according to the analysis. Six out of ten government employees work in education, mostly in K-12 schools. A smaller number work in higher education. Other major work areas for public employees include health and human services, police and fire, corrections, and transportation.

The Wisconsin Budget Project’s analysis is based on state and local government employment figures collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, which publishes public employment levels for March of each year. The Census Bureau recently released government employment figures for March 2013.

The full analysis is available on the Wisconsin Budget Project website.

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