Wisconsin Has One of the Leanest Public Sectors in the Nation

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 4:53 PM by

Wisconsin has its leanest public sector in nearly 20 years, new according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

An analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project of the recently-released Census Bureau data shows that Wisconsin had 5.4 percent fewer state and local government employees per capita in 2011 than the national average, ranking 40th among the states. State and local employees include a wide variety of workers, including teachers, highway workers, corrections guards, firefighters, and police officers.

Only 10 other states had a leaner public sector than Wisconsin in 2011. While that might surprise some state residents, Wisconsin has had fewer state and local employees per capita than the national average for most of the last two decades.  Wisconsin had 49.6 state and local full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) per 1,000 residents in 2011, compared to a national average of 52.5 FTE, as shown in the chart below.

The difference between Wisconsin and other states has grown wider since the 1990s. If the number of state and local employees per capita in Wisconsin had stayed constant since 1993 instead of decreasing, Wisconsin would have nearly 8,000 more FTEs in state and local government in 2011 than it actually did.

Wisconsin is also lower than the national average in payroll spending for state and local government employees. The Wisconsin Budget Project’s analysis found that per capita spending on salary and wages for state and local government employees in Wisconsin was 6.4 percent below the national average and ranked 28th nationally.

Almost three-fifths of state and local governments employees in Wisconsin are in the field of education. More than four out of 10 government FTEs in Wisconsin worked in K-12 education in 2011, and another 17 percent worked in higher education.

In light of the property tax constraints and significant cuts to local assistance in the 2011-13 state budget, it’s likely that the number of government employees in Wisconsin will continue to decrease in the coming years.

The report can be found on the Wisconsin Budget Project website here.

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