Report: State government employees on the rise again

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Federal, state and local governments employed 21.8 million people as of November 2013, making up 16 percent of the total nonfarm employment in the United States, according to new research from the Council of State Governments.

That number includes a boost in recent months in state governments that are showing recovery from the Great Recession. From a peak level of employment in 2008 to its lowest point in July 2013, state governments lost more than 150,000 jobs.

Since July 2013, however, state government employment job losses have leveled off, and 35,000 jobs were added between July and November 2013.

The share of total employment that government employees make up has remained fairly stable over the past 50 years, ranging from a low of 15.7 percent in 1999 to a high of 19.4 percent in 1975.

The majority of government employees—64 percent—work for local government, while state employees make up 23 percent and federal employees make up 12 percent.

Some particular numbers of interest to states:

  • From 2008 to 2013, Louisiana shed the largest percentage of state government employment—12.7 percent, followed by Alabama, which shed 6.5 percent.
  • In November 2013, state governments employed about 5.1 million people. Rhode Island had the fewest state government employees—16,218, while California had the most—479,254.
  • State government employees made up 3.7 percent of total, nonfarm employment in 2013, but that percentage varies across states, from 2.5 percent in Illinois and 2.7 percent in Florida to 11.8 percent in Hawaii and 7.8 percent in Alaska.
  • On a per capita basis, there were 1.7 state government employees for every 100 residents nationally in 2013, but that rate ranged from 1.1 employees for every 100 residents in Florida and Illinois to 5.1 in Hawaii and 3.5 in Alaska.

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