This post is about government functions I refer to as public amenities: parks, recreation, culture, and libraries. Just because they are amenities doesn’t mean they are unimportant, although they are often treated that way in a budget crisis. For the young and old, in fact, the availability of these shared, social spaces is one of the most important reasons to live in central cities. In modern suburbs people shuffle between detached homes and workplaces, and generally only interact with people they don’t already know in places that have significant admission fees. In New York City you can be with people, get entertained, and get exercise without spending much of anything.
Taxpaying workers who don’t have children in public schools, don’t commit crimes, and aren’t on Medicaid, are cash cows for the City and State of New York. These public amenities, along with streets, mass transit and garbage pick up, are really all they get for the taxes they pay, since the cost of water and sewer service is funded by charges. These are things that benefit everyone, but given the special interest-driven politics of state and local government here, the goal is always to take from everyone and give it to the “special people.” So benefitting everyone is the same as benefitting no one in particular who actually matters. Fortunately, Census of Governments employment and payroll data shows that as of March 2017 New York City’s agencies in these functions were not understaffed (unlike in the past for parks), and their workers were not underpaid. We’ll see what happens when the tax dollars aren’t gushing in from yet another Wall Street and real estate bubble, as they have been.
This is yet another post in a series on employment and payroll data from the 2017 Census of Governments, related private sector data, and similar data for 2007 and 1997. The first post, which described where the data came from and how it was tabulated, is here.
It includes spreadsheets with far more data that I have presented in these function-by- function posts. Unfortunately while preparing for this post, I found an error in the formula that calculated the extent to which local government Parks, Recreation and Culture mean payroll per worker deviated from the U.S. average. The spreadsheets have been corrected and re-uploaded, with the current links allowing one to download the correct tables.
This year I have also gotten a better handle on the role of the public sector vs. the private sector with regard to New York City’s public libraries. Rather than low, as it previously seemed, NYC’s public library employment is in fact substantial. Like many of the city’s social services, cultural organizations, museums, and botanic gardens, much of the library system is actually operated by non-profit organizations with city funding. The Census of Governments actually only recorded data for the Queens Public Library.
The discussion beings with Parks, Recreation, and Culture, and Natural Resources employment. For state & local government employment data, according to the Census Bureau’s governments manual, Natural Resources includes:
Employees engaged in irrigation; drainage; flood control; soil conservation and reclamation including prevention of soil erosion; surveying, development, and regulation of water resources; regulation of mineral resources and related industries including land reclamation; wetlands and watershed management and protection; geological surveying and mapping; regulation of gas and oil drilling and production; dam and reservoir safety; public education programs related to the above; fairs; technical assistance to private or other governmental efforts in these areas.
It also includes fish and game and forestry services, which are tabulated separately in Census Bureau government finances data.
Most of this activity takes place at the state government level, and most of the actual work is in rural areas. Activities such as the regulation of hunting and fishing and stocking ponds with fish are often very important to people who live in such places. While New York City has a Department of Environmental Protection, on the other hand, that is primarily a water and sewer utility agency, and the City of New York doesn’t report any separate Natural Resources employment.
The spreadsheet with reorganized tables and charts for these functions is here.
A picture of a table for employment is here.
And one for payroll per employee is here.
For Parks, Recreation and Culture, New York City had 72 full time equivalent (full timers plus part timers converted to full timers based on hours worked) local government employees in March 2017 per 100,000 city residents. That was about the same as the U.S. average of 74, and slightly below the average for the Downstate Suburbs at 83, but it was higher than the average of 56 for the Upstate Urban Counties and 29 for the rural and small town counties in the Rest of New York State. New Jersey and Fairfield County, Connecticut were slightly below average.
This chart of state government Parks and Natural Resources employment uses the same scale as the local government chart preceding, and shows that in general state government FTE Parks, Recreation and Culture employment is lower than local government employment in the category, but Natural Resources employment is higher.
New York State, with 15 FTE Parks, Recreation & Culture employees per 100,000 state residents was close to the U.S. average of 13 in March 2017, as were New Jersey (12), Connecticut (21), and Massachusetts (14). But New York State’s Natural Resources employment was much lower than the U.S. average, as were these other nearby states. This despite the fact that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation operates some of the state’s parks and campgrounds.
While local government Parks, Recreation and Culture employment is relatively low in Upstate New York, that is where most New York State Parks are. State Parks and Natural Resources employment is notably high in northern New England – Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. State Parks employment is notably low in the Midwest.
While at the U.S. average, NYC local government Parks, Recreation and Culture employment is lower than in the counties containing many of the county’s largest and most prominent cities. In these cities, where most residents don’t have big back yards of their own, public outdoor spaces are central to the quality of life. The 72 FTEs per 100,000 residents for NYC compares with 104 for Los Angeles County, 170 in San Francisco, 122 in the District of Columbia, 166 in Cook County (Chicago), 150 in Travis County, Texas (Austin), and 129 in King County, Washington (Seattle).
The Miami-Dade parks department not only staffs its beaches in March as well as the summer, but also oversees the local zoo, operates marinas, and maintains planted medians along roads. That is why its employment is so high.
Places with fewer local government parks employees per 100,000 residents than NYC include Harris County (Texas), where shared public spaces other than sports stadia are not as much a part of the public culture. The City of Philadelphia’s broke government struggles to maintain and manage Fairmont Park, its “Central Park” along the Schuylkill River. Suffolk County (Boston) has about the same number of parks employees per 100,000 residents as NYC, but far less parkland.
That NYC’s local government Parks, Recreation & Culture employment is about at the national average is a fairly recent phenomenon. In March 1997, New York City’s Parks, Recreation and Culture employment totaled just 41 FTEs per 100,000 city residents, well below the U.S average of 72 at the time. The city’s parks has been gutted during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, partially restored in the 1980s under the administration of Mayor Ed Koch, gutted again in the Dinkins and Giuliani Administrations, before being restored again under Mayor Bloomberg.
In many other places, on the other hand, local government FTE Parks, Recreation and Culture employment per 100,000 people fell from March 2007 to March 2017. The decrease was 6.3% nation-wide, 10.6% in the Downstate Suburbs, 8.3% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 1.7% in the Rest of New York State, 8.4% in New Jersey, 21.3% in Fairfield County, 26.3% in Los Angeles County, 20.4% in Cook County, and 15.1% in Miami-Dade. The decrease in Philadelphia was 20.4%.
At least as of March 2017 Cook County in general, and Chicago in particular, had maintained their excellent parks in the face of an exploding public employee pension funding crisis. To protect parks funding from city budget crises, Chicago’s parks are managed by a semi-independent special district, the Chicago Parks District.
Judging by the numbers for Suffolk County, Boston and a few nearby towns are trying to cater to their booming Millennial population by beefing up their parks. Suffolk County’s Pars, Recreation and Culture employment increased from 28 per 100,000 residents in 1997 to 75 in 2017.
New York City owns most of its museums, its zoos and botanic gardens, but these are operated by non-profit organizations. New York City’s private sector employment in the Museums, Historical Sites, Zoos, Botanical Gardens & Parks industry totaled 162 per 100,000 city residents, three times the U.S. average of 50.
As in many other major cities, however, these institutions serve regional and tourist visitors as well as city residents. The city’s employment in the industry, relative to its population, is similar to the District of Columbia at 176, Cook County (Chicago) at 139, and Philadelphia at 159. Since San Francisco and Suffolk County (Boston) are a small part of their metro areas, basically equivalent to Manhattan, their employment in the category is even higher relative to that small population.
New York City also has private parks employment, now that the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Hudson River Park, and Governor’s Island are operated by non-profit organizations, organizations like the Central Park Alliance and the Prospect Park Alliance do some of the maintenance in those parks, and business improvement districts maintain and operate facilities such as Bryant Park. Of the 19,371 employed across all of New York State in the private Museums, Historical Sites, Zoos, Botanical Gardens & Parks industry in 2017, however, just 1,170 were in the Parks sub-industry. There were 6,126 full time equivalent Parks, Recreation and Culture local government employees in NYC alone that March, with seasonal employees also hired for the summer.
Over 30 years I have observed that New York City and State politicians love to fund operations, with their large number of grateful workers (and retirees) and short-term benefits, and hate to invest in basic infrastructure. But with regard to donations and educational and cultural institutions, the situation is the reverse. Wealthy donors like to invest in facilities with their names on the door, not operations. As a result, I am concerned that there is an unsustainable bubble in these types of organizations, albeit one mitigated by the city’s rising population.
New York’s Downstate Suburbs have more local government FTE Parks, Recreation and Culture employees per 100,000 residents than some affluent suburban counties around the country, but fewer than others. Once again low-tax Florida comes in relatively high for this government function with regard to Palm Beach County, while Massachusetts – in this case Middlesex County – is relatively low. These areas have 126 and 36 FTEs per 100,000 residents, compared with 83 in NY’s Downstate Suburbs and the U.S. average of 74.
The Upstate Urban Counties have fewer local government FTE Parks, Recreation and Culture employees per 100,000 residents than most other urban Rustbelt counties, especially prosperous Hennepin County (Minneapolis). While state government Parks employment is relatively high in northern New England, local government Parks, Recreation and Culture employment is relatively low, but not as low as it is in the rural and small-town Rest of New York State. As noted in the post on infrastructure, Parks, Recreation and Culture employment may be underestimated in New York’s smaller communities, because their parks are maintained by general Departments of Public Works and tabulated as Highways employment.
Around the Northeast, state governments seem to be investing more in their state parks, perhaps because they perceive that these are important attractions for visitors to their rural areas. The 2007 to 2017 increase in FTEs per 100,000 people was 7.4% for New York State, 65.8% for Massachusetts, 95.2% for Pennsylvania, and more than 100 percent in New Hampshire and Maine.
Connecticut once funded its state beaches with tolls on I-95, and its state Parks, Recreation and Culture employment fell after the tolls were removed. Employment was restored to a higher level from 2007 to 2017, and in the latter year it was higher than in New York, New Jersey, or Massachusetts. New Jersey, however, went in the other direction, as its public employee pension crisis intensified. It’s state government Parks Recreation and Culture employment was half the level in 2017 that it had been in 2007, relative to its population.
State Natural Resources employment fell relative to population in most places from 2007 to 2017, with a decrease of 6.0% for the U.S., 15.2% for New York State, 16.3% for New Jersey, and 9.8% for Massachusetts. There were, however, increases of 17.2% in Pennsylvania, 2.5% in Vermont, 13.7% in Maine, and 13.1% in California, reversing or partially reversing cuts from 1997 to 2007. California is generally considered the national leader in state environmental regulation.
While not high in number, New York’s state government Parks, Recreation and Culture employees are relative well paid. New York State’s private sector earnings (including benefits) per worker (including the self employed) was just 12.0% above the U.S. average in 2017. But in March of that year, New York’s state government Parks & Recreation payroll per FTE employee was 30.2% higher than the U.S. average. And most of these employees work in Upstate New York, where the average private sector worker was paid less than the U.S. average. State parks workers in new Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine – along with California – are similarly well paid compared with the U.S. average parks worker.
State parks workers don’t make much money anywhere however. The U.S. average for March payroll per FTE, multiplied by 12, comes to just $37,441. That is about the lowest state paid state job. From 2007 to 2017, there was a decrease of 16.4% in inflation-adjusted payroll per state government parks worker nationwide, 25.7% for New York State (albeit after a big increase from 1997 to 2007), 7.0% for New Jersey, and 26.9% for California.
Similarly, New York’s state government Natural Resources employees are relative well paid. While New York State’s private sector earnings per worker was just 12.0% above the U.S. average in 2017, its state government Natural Resources payroll per FTE employee was 32.5% higher than the U.S. average. New Jersey’s Natural Resources state workers were paid 24.1% more than the U.S. average, and California’s were paid 36.3% more than average.
Mean March state government payroll per worker was much higher for those in the Natural Resources function than in the Parks, Recreation and Culture function, but it is decreasing. When multiplied by 12, it came to $51,545 in the United States, down 6.2% from 2007 after adjustment for inflation, $68,315 in New York State, down 0.2%, and $63,965 in New Jersey, down 13.7%. California’s state government Natural Resources employees averaged $70,251 in cash pay, down 0.5% year-over-year.
The mean private sector earnings per worker in the New York metro area, excluding Wall Street, was 21.4% above the U.S. average in 2017. And the mean payroll per FTE local government Parks, Recreation and Culture worker in New York City was spot on at 21.4% above the U.S. average for such workers that March. The mean payroll per local government worker in the Downstate Suburbs was higher at 38.0% above average, compared with just 7.6% above average in New Jersey and 26.0% above average in Fairfield County.
Upstate New York’s local government Parks, Recreation and Culture employees were also paid more than the U.S. average, by 4.6% in the Urban Counties and 2.3% in the Rest of New York State, but private sector workers are paid less than average there.
With the exception of a 3.8% decrease in New Jersey, mean March payroll per local government Parks, Recreation & Culture worker was higher around the tristate area in 2017 than it had been in 2007, after adjustment for inflation. The increase was 6.9% for New York City, 7.2% for the Downstate Suburbs, 10.1% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 9.0% in the Rest of New York State, and 0.2% in Fairfield County. There was a 2.6% increase for the U.S. as a whole.
When multiplied by 12, New York City’s payroll per worker in this function comes to $53,320. That compared with an average of $92,012 in cash pay per year for the Solid Waste Management function.
With regard to Libraries, New York City’s full time equivalent local government employment per 100,000 residents totaled just 27 in March 2017, fewer than the 40 for the U.S., far fewer than the 93 for the Downstate Suburbs and 62 for the Upstate Urban Counties, and fewer than the 33 for the Rest of New York State.
However the New York Public Library, which provides library service in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, and the Brooklyn Public Library, are non-profit organizations with city funding, and their employees to do count as local government employees. Only employees of the Queens Public Library are counted in the Census of Governments. Divided by the population of Queens alone, New York City’s local government Libraries employment comes to 100 FTEs per 100,000 people, more than in the suburbs.
That would put NYC (or rather Queens) on par with San Francisco and St. Louis, and above most other major cities.
Because data on the private sector Libraries and Archives industry employment is suppressed for disclosure reasons for NYC boroughs other than Manhattan, moreover, data for the Brooklyn Public Library is not available. When Manhattan’s employment in the sector is divided by the population of that borough, plus Staten Island and the Bronx, it comes to 73 private Library and Archive workers per 100,000 residents. The U.S. average is just 9, with 50 for the Downstate Suburbs and 30 for the Upstate Urban Counties. (Manhattan has at least two additional organizations in the industry in addition to the New York Public Library, which is why its data is not suppressed).
The public vs. private issue, and suppression, means it is difficult compare NYC employment with other areas for the Libraries function, but it may be that the city’s employment in the category is actually high, as one would expect, rather than low.
FTE local government libraries employment per 100,000 residents is higher in the Downstate Suburbs than in any of the affluent suburban counties I chose for comparison. To the extent that I collected the data, so is private sector Libraries and Archives employment.
The Upstate Urban Counties have the same FTE local government Libraries employment per 100,000 residents as Hennepin County (Minneapolis) and far more than Alleghany County (Pittsburgh), but less than in the Ohio counties that include Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati.
New York City’s local government Libraries employment per 100,000 city residents plunged from March 1997 to March 2007, according to Census Bureau data. But it may be that either the Brooklyn Public Library or the New York Public Library was included 1997, but not in 2007, rather than actual decrease. The number of local government Libraries employees has been increasing per 100,000 area residents in Upstate New York. It decreased from 2007 to 2017 in New Jersey and Fairfield County, Connecticut.
As noted, the mean private sector earnings per worker in the New York metro area, excluding Wall Street, was 21.4% above the U.S. average in 2017. And the mean payroll per FTE local government Libraries worker in New York City was also spot on at 22.6% above the U.S. average for such workers that March. That data is for cash pay at the Queens Public Library alone.
The mean payroll per local government worker in the Downstate Suburbs was 26.9% above average, compared with just 5.2% above average in New Jersey and 27.4% above average in Fairfield County. In Upstate New York, the mean payroll per Library worker was below average, as was mean private sector earnings.
Adjusted for inflation, mean payroll per local government Libraries increased 2.1% in the U.S. and 12.0% in New York City (for the Queens Public Library) from 2007 to 2017. The increase was 10.6% for the Downstate Suburbs, 0.9% for the Upstate Urban Counties, 5.9% for the Rest of New York State, 1.4% in New Jersey, and 5.7% in Fairfield County.
The median cash pay of most workers fell behind inflation over those years, according to the American Community Survey.
When multiplied by 12, New York City’s March 2017 payroll per FTE local government Libraries employee to $53,276, almost identical to that for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture employees. That is low compared with other NYC local government workers. But it isn’t terrible compared with New Yorkers in general. According to the American Community Survey (table DP03), in 2018 the median cash earnings of full-time year-round workers was $56,264 for males and $52,107 for females.
There is one final post to come in this series. It is on the judiciary, public health, and administrative functions I have grouped together as Bureaucracy. It will arrive when I have time to write it.