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States with the highest public employment

  • States with the highest public employment

    Since the United States began its slow climb out of the Great Recession of 2008, the public sector has remained sluggish while the private sector added more than 16 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those public jobs are sporadically distributed among states, where budgets vary wildly and different priorities are set for funding of schools, infrastructure, police departments, or public works. 

    Local and state governments in 2016 spent $2.9 trillion on government expenditures, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. But where was this money most concentrated, and how did it affect job markets there? To find out, Stacker looked at U.S. Census Bureau data from March 2016, which took into account 10,577 state and local governments. Of the total, 13.6% were counties, 33.6% were cities and townships, 29.5% were special districts, and 23.3% were school districts. From there, we ranked the states in order of their offerings of public employment from those with the least public employment to the most.

    There are several reasons why some states employ thousands of more workers than others. First, some states have more money allocated with which to hire employees. Second, demographics come into play: Some states have a higher senior population, for instance, which means a greater need for social services and health care facilities Third, some states have dozens of school districts that account for higher statewide employment numbers.

    Public employment entails any and all public service jobs, including federal, state, and local government positions. Jobs in public employment vary greatly and include jobs in corrections, education, fire and police protection, hospitals, judicial and legal, and more. In most instances, a higher population means higher public employment, so this list is sorted by percentage employed in the public sector. Read on to find out where your home state ranks on public employment.

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  • #51. Nevada

    - Percent employed in public sector: 9.8%
    - Total public employment: 132,148
    --- Full-time employment: 97,750
    --- Part-time employment: 34,398

    Public employees in Nevada make less than their private-business counterparts and benefits don't make up for the disparity according to the Economic Policy Institute. The Sagebrush State has only seven state universities, which helps keep total public employment down. Nevada has the second-lowest rate of government employees in relation to population, trailing only Michigan.

  • #50. Florida

    - Percent employed in public sector: 10.7%
    - Total public employment: 996,955
    --- Full-time employment: 811,966
    --- Part-time employment: 184,989

    Despite being the third-most populated state, the public employment percentage in the Sunshine State is low. With 40 state universities and colleges, Florida is near the bottom for teachers and professors per 10,000 people. The fourth-highest in total public employment, Forbes noted that high salaries are an ongoing problem.

  • #49. Pennsylvania

    - Percent employed in public sector: 10.9%
    - Total public employment: 665,886
    --- Full-time employment: 493,320
    --- Part-time employment: 172,566

    The City of Philadelphia, the sixth-biggest city in the country, employs more than 25,000 people and is one of the top public employers in the state. Pennsylvania's high population density and concentrated urban areas detract from the number of government employees necessary. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the Clean Slate Law in 2019, which seals 30 million criminal records from employment background checks.

  • #48. Arizona

    - Percent employed in public sector: 10.9%
    - Total public employment: 334,454
    --- Full-time employment: 245,331
    --- Part-time employment: 89,123

    In June, the Arizona Republic reported the salaries of more than 150,000 state, county, and local employees. The compilation of wages, which are public record, showed the largest sector of state employees work for state government, while the three major universities provide thousands of other jobs. In addition, Maricopa County, the state's largest, has about 4.307 million residents that need more public sector employees, along with the highly populated areas of Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, and Tucson.

  • #47. Rhode Island

    - Percent employed in public sector: 11.0%
    - Total public employment: 57,717
    --- Full-time employment: 44,308
    --- Part-time employment: 13,409

    The smallest state in the country, Rhode Island is home to just three public colleges: University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and Community College of Rhode Island. The state's lone prison system is vastly understaffed with fewer than 1,000 full-time employees. The Lifespan System of Hospitals, the state's largest employer, is privatized, reducing public employment.

  • #46. Maryland

    - Percent employed in public sector: 11.2%
    - Total public employment: 339,359
    --- Full-time employment: 267,563
    --- Part-time employment: 71,796

    Situated near the nation's capital, Maryland is host to the National Security Agency and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as the Naval Academy at Annapolis. But in spite of so many government offices—and despite being one of the most densely populated states—Maryland has the fifth-lowest percentage of public employees in the country.

  • #45. Massachusetts

    - Percent employed in public sector: 11.5%
    - Total public employment: 398,620
    --- Full-time employment: 303,114
    --- Part-time employment: 95,506

    The low percentage of public employment in the Bay State can be attributed to more than 80% of the state's population living in the greater Boston area. Despite 29 public universities within the Commonwealth, Massachusetts has the fourth-lowest rate of higher educators in relation to population. Massachusetts is also the nation's fourth-richest state, which decreases the need for certain public services such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

  • #44. Michigan

    - Percent employed in public sector: 12.2%
    - Total public employment: 558,963
    --- Full-time employment: 360,855
    --- Part-time employment: 198,108

    The lowest per capita employer of local government workers, less than half of Michigan's public employees work in government. The state made an effort in the 2019 budget to improve shortfalls in state police and corrections staffing. Michigan University, one of 46 in the state, employs nearly 30,000 people.

  • #43. New Hampshire

    - Percent employed in public sector: 12.2%
    - Total public employment: 88,441
    --- Full-time employment: 58,135
    --- Part-time employment: 30,306

    One of the smallest states by population, New Hampshire is mostly rural, requiring more public employees than more urban areas. U.S. News & World Report ranked New Hampshire's pre-k through grade 12 school system the third best in the nation. The Granite State employs the fourth-highest ratio of teachers, with 272 per 10,000 residents.

  • #42. California

    - Percent employed in public sector: 12.2%
    - Total public employment: 2,210,005
    --- Full-time employment: 1,523,255
    --- Part-time employment: 686,750

    The most populous state, California also employs more people in the public sector than any state, 500,000 more than second-place Texas. With a highly urban population, California boasts 75 cities with populations exceeding 100,000 people, three cities with more than 1 million people. With nearly 150 public universities, UCLA and UC Davis are two of the state's top employers, combining for nearly 50,000 public sector employees.

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