State and Local Government Employment: 2002 Vs. 2010, NYC Vs. Elsewhere
The governments division of the U.S. Census Bureau has released state and local government employment and payroll data for March 2011, and as in the past I’ve compiled it for New York City, the rest of New York State (by subtraction), New Jersey and the United States, along with some related and relevant private sector data, and added 2002 data for comparison. A spreadsheet of related private-sector data is also included. A link to the spreadsheets, and notes on how the data was compiled, come after the jump.
Based on the Census Bureau’s release schedule, I may have 2010 state and local government finance data to show you in time for the state legislature election this November. But this 2011 employment data, that 2010 finance data, and the 2011 education finance data are likely to be the latest available prior to the 2013 New York City Democratic Mayoral primary. And it is this data, and the values and priorities it demonstrates, that the candidates for Mayor ought to be asked about. How much do we pay, compared with other places? What do we spend more than average on, or less, adjusted for everything? For which public services do we employ more people compared with other places, and how is that changing? Let’s see what the data shows.
The spreadsheets are here and here. On the left, click on “Excel” where it says “View the Book.” Within the Census2002to2011PublicEmployment spreadsheet there are two “output” worksheets to be printed, one for state government and for local government. The state government worksheet can be printed on one page if you have good eyes, and two pages otherwise. The local government worksheet should be printed on four pages. I hope I have set the output tables up to print, but with various versions of various spreadsheet programs, the pages may not break correctly, and you will have to adjust.
Downloading the data and producing this spreadsheet takes a lot of time, no one else seems willing or able to do it, and the whole point is for people to have this data available. So please download it, print it out, and keep it for reference. I have also included a spreadsheet with private sector data, as I have downloaded it from the BLS. It is of interest in its own right, above and beyond the comparison with local government.
At the risk of repeating myself, and in case there is someone reading through my posts on public employment for the first time, here is the background on the data. Every five years, most recently in 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a Census of Governments, which allows data to be compiled on the employment, payroll, revenues, expenditures and debts of all the local governments, added together, in each county in the country. Because this data includes everything – municipalities, counties, school districts, other special districts – it can be directly compared with the City of New, which is all of the above.
In non-census years, the Bureau conducts a survey of local governments, and provides estimates for all local governments totaled together for each state and the United States. That is what this data is. Individual unit data for the City of New York and Port Authority is always included as well, and this allows me to create data for New York City, and thus for the rest of the New York State by subtraction. (The Office of the State Comptroller could match the Governments Division and provide comparable data for every county in the state every year, if it chose.)
In past years I have divided up the Port Authority employment and payroll between New York City (and state) and New Jersey, adjusting state totals accordingly (the Census Bureau assigns the whole agency, including operations in New Jersey, to NYC local government). This time, I just left it with New York City and State to save time. Note that for both the 2002 and 2011 data, NYC Transit and Other/Unallocable employment is really slightly lower than it appears, with New Jersey somewhat higher. Since the Port Authority contracts out most of the work at the airports and seaports, that portion of its operations really doesn’t make much of a difference as far as local government employment data.
To make the data comparable, additional adjustments are required. I divide full time equivalent employment by population to get the number of local government employees in each category per 100,000 residents, using population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The division between state and local government also has to be accounted for, to the extent it can be. Most transit agencies are classified as “local government,” but those in New Jersey and the portion of New York State outside New York City are classified as “state government.” I add that employment back to the local government totals. New Jersey and some other states have taken over local elementary and secondary schools, also classifying their employment and payroll as “state government.” To make the per-capita figures comparable with New York City, I re-classify that data as local government also.
The biggest difference between state and local responsibilities that isn’t adjusted for is in the “public welfare” category. In many states, a higher share of total public employment in this category is at the state level. In NYC, a lot of the work is privatized, as private employment data for the “Social Assistance” sector shows.
The government often acts through the private sector (by paying for private health care via Medicaid for example), and some private industries substitute for public employment. For example, in 2010 New York City had 582 Transit employees per 100,000 residents, far above the national average of 74, but that is because New York City has a lot of mass transit. On the other hand, the city had only 444 employees per 100,000 residents in industries related to the private automobile, compared with a national average of 1,239. What New Yorkers must pay, in taxes and fares, to support all those transit workers is offset through the ownership and use of fewer private cars. As we shall see, however, that isn’t true in the hospitals industry.
In general, the health care and social services sectors are mostly funded by federal, state and local government programs or subsidies. So is the heavy construction (infrastructure) industry. Some people substitute public schools for private schools. In some places solid waste collection is contracted out by local governments, or paid for individually by customers, rather than having public sanitation workers pick up the trash. Some places have public water and sewer, others have private water and septic service. The City of New York subsidizes non-profits to run its museums, zoos, and even some of its parks, while elsewhere public employees do the work. Comparable private employment is provided in each of these categories to make the picture complete.
I’ve have also calculated the percent more or less than the national average each category of public employee was paid in March 2011. The data is total payroll divided by the number of full time equivalent employees in March. These figures are not really comparable unless one considers the higher cost of living (associated with higher average private sector wages) in Downstate New York, most relevantly with the high-paid finance sector excluded. That private sector ratio is relatively stable, with private sector workers in Downstate New York typically paid 28 to 33 percent more than the U.S. average, if the finance and insurance sector is excluded.
When evaluating pay per employee data, consider the following factors.
The lower the relative employment level, the higher the average pay, because a low employment level is indicative of work contracted out. For example, from FY 2002 to FY 2011 the number of non-instructional NYC public school employees per 100,000 residents, which was already far below the U.S. average, fell further, but the average pay of those employees rose relative to the U.S average. That is because the schools contracted out a lot of work, leaving fewer line workers relative to managers outside the classroom.
In some places teachers are paid only during the school year but in NYC school year pay is averaged over the entire year. That makes NYC’s pay seem lower in March.
The March 2002 pay of NYC police officers and firefighters was inflated by post-9/11 overtime, but I still use March 2002 data because it was the last pre-Bloomberg budget.
Average pay often rises during budget crises, because lower paid low seniority workers are either not hired or laid off, and falls early in spending surges as more low-paid workers are hired.
“Rest of New York State” is a fairly useful figure for local government employment, but not a useful figure at all for average pay because the cost of living in two areas – the affluent Downstate Suburbs and Upstate New York is so different. For detailed data on the Downstate Suburbs and Upstate New York separately, one can find a spreadsheet based on 2007 Census of Governments data here.
The next post will provide comments on this data.