State and Local Government Employment and Pay Per Employee: Census Bureau Data for FY 2016 Compared With FY 2006

Note:  this post is obsolete.  You can read a new, more detailed series of posts on state and local government employment and payroll for 2017, 2007 and 1997 starting here:

Since these are Census of Governments years, data is available for every county in New York and New Jersey, and selected counties elsewhere.  Continuing with the older post as originally written.

The U.S. Census Bureau released state and local government and payroll data for March 2016 last fall, and I compiled it over the past few weeks to see how things changed between March 2006 and that year.  It appears that in New York City some of the reduction in local government employment relative to population was reversed from March 2014 to March 2016.   And it appears than New York City’s local government workers became better off in cash pay relative to private sector workers from 2006 to 2016.  Benefit costs, particularly those for the retired, were soaring at the same time.  I didn’t find the reduction in NYC mass transit employment I expected, based on cuts in service and maintenance.  Meanwhile, the number of students per instructional employee fell to 8.4 in New York City and 7.4 in the rest of New York State.

Those are just some tidbits.   As is my custom, however, while the spreadsheet with the tables and charts may be downloaded from this post, my analysis and understanding of what it means will be presented in later posts. What I’d like is for people to read the background information presented below, download the spreadsheet, look at the tables, and make up their own minds before reading what I have to say about it.

The Census Bureau’s state and local government employment and payroll data is located here.

State and local government employment and payroll is presented for the full range of state and local government functions, from Elementary and Secondary Education to Water Supply to Parks and Recreation.

The spreadsheet is here.  It is large, and contains several worksheets and a large number of charts.

Local-State Gov Emp 2016

Looking at the tabs on the bottom there is the data as downloaded, output tables for local government and state government, and a series of charts based on that data.

The data in the tables is for the United States as a whole, New York City, the Rest of New York State (by subtraction), New Jersey, and Connecticut.  But I also downloaded and did some quick calculations for some other states – California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, located further to the right.

Data for March 2006 and March 2016 is calculated, but I left in the data from March 2014 for a comparison over two years.  I judge 2006 and 2016 to be similar years in the economic cycle, so a comparison between those years eliminates cyclical effects.

Full time equivalent state and local government employment data is presented per 100,000 residents.  In the government employment data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every employee counts as one employee whether they are full time or part time. This inflates the number of public employees in rural areas where many public officials are part time.  So the FTE calculation in this data source provides a more accurate comparison.

Nationally, there were 3,764 full time equivalent local government employees and 1,350 full time equivalent state government employees per 100,000 people in March 2016.  New Jersey and Connecticut were somewhat higher, while New York City and the Rest of New York State were far higher.  The following charts show total local government employment and total state government employment in these areas – data by government function will be discussed in subsequent posts.

Local Emp Chart

State Emp Chart

According to the monthly e-mail from the New York State Department of Labor, based on the Current Employment Survey, total government employment increased by just 1,000 in the U.S. from March 2017 to March 2018, and New York State accounted for 600 of those.   Total government employment decreased by 2,200 in New York City, but increased by 2,800 in the rest of New York State, with the NYC suburban counties accounting for 2,500 of that.   Within New York City, according to CES data downloaded from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, federal employment fell by 1,700 and state government employment by 200.  Local government fell by 300, with an increase of 2,000 in the public schools offset by a decrease of 2,300 in other agencies.

The spreadsheet of this data is here – the state provided total and private employment, and I calculated government employment by subtraction.

Job Change March 2018

For the U.S., New York, New Jersey and Connecticut additional data is provided for private sector industries that are either substantially funded by the government (such as health care and social services) or substitutes for government-provided services (such as private schools). The source of this data is also the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this time from the unemployment insurance tax records..

A full spreadsheet of the data I downloaded from this source is here.

Covered Employment Gov-Related-16

The payroll data is presented per FTE, with the March 2006 data adjusted upward for inflation for comparison with March 2016, and as a percent of the U.S. average.  The percent of the U.S. average table is under the employment table; the straight payroll per FTE (with 2006 inflation adjusted) table is further down, after the raw data.

For comparison, Downstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut’s average private sector payroll per employee excluding the overpaid finance and insurance sector is also presented.

In March 2016, the average local government worker in New York City was paid 35.3% more than the average local government worker in the United States.  The average private sector worker in Downstate New York, excluding the overpaid finance and insurance sector, was paid 28.0% more than the U.S. average. From 2006 to 2016 the March payroll per NYC government worker increased by 10.1%, adjusted for inflation.  The average annual payroll per private sector worker in Downstate New York increased by 4.2% with the finance and insurance sector excluded, and fell 0.7% with it included.

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 some additional background on the data.

Every five years, most recently in 2012, 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 York, 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.

Several adjustments are required to make comparisons between these areas meaningful.

First, 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). I assign 2/3 of Port Authority Air Transportation employment and payroll to New York City, and 2/3 of the agency’s Water Transportation employment and payroll to New Jersey, etc.

Second, the division of responsibilities between state and local government in different places 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 generally classified as “state government.” I add that employment back to the local government totals for these areas. New Jersey and some other states have taken over local elementary and secondary schools in some cities, 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.

Third, the government often acts through the contracts with the private and non-profit sectors, and some private industries substitute for what is generally public employment. Additional data is thus required to show the additional workers funded by state and local government spending, and the private employment that substitutes for what is public employment elsewhere.

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.

For example, in FY 2016 New York City had 580 Transit employees per 100,000 residents, far above the national average of 76, but that is because New York City has a lot of mass transit. On the other hand, the city had only 468 employees per 100,000 residents in industries related to the private automobile, compared with a national average of 1,366. What New Yorkers must pay, in taxes and fares, to support all those government transit workers is offset through the ownership and use of fewer private cars.

When making comparisons based on pay per employee, remember the following.

First, a lower employment level per 100,000 people is often associated with high average pay, because the low employment level is indicative of work contracted out. For example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has very few actual employees in the Air Transportation function, and these are paid a lot of money. That is because they are mostly high level contract managers, with private companies doing most of the work of actually running the airports.

Second, average pay often rises when local government employment decreases, and falls when local government employment increases. This is because most public employees get automatic increases in wages during their careers, eventually receiving promotions away from having to provide direct services – by patrolling the streets or teaching in a classroom for example. In a fiscal crunch new, low-paid workers are either not hired or perhaps laid off, leaving higher paid workers still on the job and thus increasing average pay. When tax revenues roll in, on the other hand, hiring accelerates and a larger share of the workforce is in its low-paid early years.

Third, 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 compared with other places in March than it is in reality over a year.

Bear in mind that the private payroll data in that dataset is for the entire year of 2016, rather than just for March alone as in the Census Bureau’s data.   According to the Census Bureau, the average (cash) payroll per full time equivalent instructional employee in New York City for local government elementary and secondary education was $5,891 for the MONTH of March, which equals $70,692 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average (cash) payroll per employee (whether full time or part time) in New York City for private elementary and secondary schools was $54,083 for the YEAR of 2016.

Finally, remember that under the labor contracts signed by Mayor DeBlasio, many New York City public employees received very little in wage increases for a number of years – followed by a huge retroactive increase in 2018, after his re-election.  There is some additional pay for these employees, therefore, that isn’t showing up because it wasn’t paid at the time.

So download the spreadsheets, look at the charts, and play around with the data yourself.  It’s the triumph of hope over experience, but there is no need to wait for me to tell you what the data says.  See for yourself.

3 thoughts on “State and Local Government Employment and Pay Per Employee: Census Bureau Data for FY 2016 Compared With FY 2006

  1. Pingback: Census Bureau Public Employment Data: Public School Employment and Payroll in March 2016 and March 2006 | Saying the Unsaid in New York

    1. larrylittlefield Post author

      I was surprised there wasn’t more of a drop than there is, given rising pension costs. Perhaps in much of the country they are trying to cut worker pay rather than services to offset it. According to the Associated Press…

      “Among the biggest reasons for lagging pay is one of the least understood: The rising cost of state pensions.”

      “Colorado isn’t the only state where an underfunded retirement system has played a role in a teacher uprising sweeping the U.S. In Kentucky, educators in at least 20 school districts walked out of their classrooms after the GOP-led Legislature in March passed a measure reducing retirement benefits for future teachers. Elsewhere, pay and other benefits, such as health care, have been at the forefront of teachers’ demands, including in Arizona, where a historic statewide strike has closed down schools for four days. But that doesn’t mean rising pension costs are not a factor behind the scenes.”

      “Public pension systems nationwide face record levels of debt, totaling $1.4 trillion, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts study. That puts downward pressure on wages and benefit checks as governments struggle to close the funding gap. It suggests the recent outcry over teacher pay could spread in coming years, whether pension costs are widely acknowledged as a driving factor or not.”

      Pension costs jumped from 10 percent of pay to 20 percent in Colorado. But they are 40 percent in New York City, and should probably be 60 percent if the fund is to get out of the hole.

      The union-friendly way to get out of the hole, other than tax increases and service cuts, is “screw the newbie.” And it is likely that recently-hired public employees have, in fact been screwed, all the NY Times doesn’t say why that is.

Comments are closed.