This post will complete my series on different government functions based on employment and payroll data from the Census of Governments, for March 2017 and previous years. It includes data for the kind of general government and legal workers one might generally expect to find hanging around in city and town halls, and county seats and courthouses, reviewing applications, keeping records, handling cases and doing inspections, rather than providing services. At the local government level the functions included are, as delineated by the U.S. Census Bureau, Health, Financial Administration, Other Local Government Administration, Judicial and Legal, and Other and Unallocable. At the state level there are two additional functions: Social Insurance Administration, basically state Departments of Labor, and “Other Education,” which includes oversight agencies such as the New York State Department of Education and Board of Regents.
For decades I’ve been making the case that for public employment and expenditures alike there is not much to see here. New York State is about average when you add everything up, and no part of the state is really out of line. Today, however, things have changed enough in one part of the state that this time around I don’t feel that to be true anymore.
I group these categories because they overlap. While the Health function, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, includes “provision of services for the conservation and improvement of public health, other than hospital care” it also includes “health related inspections – inspection of restaurants, water supplies, food handlers, nursing homes, agricultural standards or protection of agricultural products from disease” along with animal control. In the “Other and Unallocable” category, similarly, one finds “protective inspection and regulation” and “code enforcement” among other things.
The “Central Staff Services” included with “Other Government Administration” includes not only our local politicians and their personal staffs but also clerks, recorders, and planning and zoning agencies. And while state courts and prosecutors in the “Judicial and Legal” category deal with criminal law and major civil lawsuits, local courts typically handle cases dealing with local ordinances. Parking and noise tickets for example.
The first post in this series, which explains where the data comes from and provides spreadsheets with data for every county in New York State and New Jersey and many states and counties elsewhere, is once again here.
It should be read first.
A reorganized spreadsheet with tables and charts for Bureaucracy functions is here.
And here are pictures of tables for state and local government employment per 100,000 state and area residents.
And mean payroll per employee relative to the U.S. average for each function.
The amount of Bureaucracy at the state government level, compared with the local government level, varies from state to state. California, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania have virtually no state government Judicial and Legal employment, for example, while Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have virtually no local government employment in the category.
Adding it all up, however, New York State had 780 full time equivalent (full timers plus part timers converted into a smaller number of full timers based on hours worked) state and local government Bureaucracy employees per 100,000 state residents, significantly higher than the U.S. average of 668. New York was higher than the U.S. average at both the state level, at 364 FTEs compared with 292, and the local level, at 417 FTEs vs. 377.
With the exception of Pennsylvania, all the other states around the Northeast are higher than the U.S. average for state and local government Bureaucracy employment in total, as is California. But the only states that have more state & local government FTEs per 100,000 people than the 780 in New York are Minnesota at 826 and Vermont at 973. These are also the only states where the state and local government tax burden, as a percent of the total personal income of state residents, even comes close to that of New York.
Looking at individual functions New York State is not above the U.S. average as a result of being far out of line in one of them, but rather because it is somewhat above average in almost all of them. There are two exceptions: public Health, which will be discussed in detail later, and state government Other Education employment, which is oversight agencies (it is other than state government Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education, which were discussed in other posts).
New York State had 21 state government “Other Education” FTEs per 100,000 state residents, below the U.S. average of 28, and below New Jersey at 31, and Connecticut at 111? Perhaps state workers providing actual education in that state are classified as “Other Education” there. There were just 18 FTEs per 100,000 in Massachusetts in the category.
With those two exceptions New York State was above the U.S. average in state government FTEs per 100,000 residents in every Bureaucracy category.
And New York State was above average in local government Bureaucracy FTEs per 100,000 people in every category as well, albeit only slightly for public Health.
Looking at New York City individually, it had 392 local government Bureaucracy FTEs per 100,000 city residents, above the U.S. average of 377, the average of 343 for the Downstate Suburbs, the 350 in the Upstate Urban Counties, the 348 in New Jersey, the 200 in Fairfield County, the 229 in the Rest of Connecticut, the 329 in Cook County (Chicago), and the 313 in Harris County (Houston). But New York City had fewer Bureaucracy FTEs than Los Angeles County (544), San Francisco (833 – mostly because of high public Health employment) and Philadelphia (591).
The area that really has a lot of local government Bureaucracy FTEs per 100,000 people is the rural, small town and small city counties I have grouped together as the Rest of New York State. These areas had 637 FTEs per 100,000 people, far above NYC at 392 and the U.S. average at 377. And unlike the case of San Francisco this wasn’t mostly about additional workers in the Health category perhaps providing health services, although Rest of New York employment was high in that category as well.
Moreover, the number of people who hold government positions in the Rest of New York State is far higher than the chart implies, because it is in those counties and in these categories that measuring employment “full time equivalent” really makes a difference. Many of the towns, villages and even small cities in these counties don’t have enough people to support a full time government official in many categories. So many positions in the Bureaucracy there are part time, held by people with other jobs, farms, or other small businesses. Even local judges, under the Justice of the Peace system.
The use of part time government officials kept the number of full time equivalent workers, and their costs, at least reasonable relative to population in the Rest of New York State in the past. But now these places are being squeezed by population decline. From 2007 to 2017, the number of local government Bureaucracy FTEs in the Rest of New York State fell from 15,541 to 15,227, a 2.0% decrease. But the population of the Rest of New York State plunged from 2.72 million to 2.39 million, a decrease of 12.1% with no end in sight. What is going on isn’t a Bureaucracy hiring binge, it is the population collapsing out from under the Bureaucracy upstate already had.
As a result the number of local government Bureaucracy FTEs per 100,000 people increased 11.5% in the Rest of New York State from 2007 to 2017. It also increased in the Rest of Connecticut (outside Fairfield County), by 4.9%, and Vermont, by 8.4%, but the general trend is down. By 6.7% for the United States, 7.4% for New York City, 17.9% for the Downstate Suburbs, 14.3% for the Upstate Urban Counties, 11.5% for New Jersey, 18.5% for Fairfield County, and 3.6% for Massachusetts.
The Rest of New York State is facing the sort of population decrease and loss of its tax base that New York City felt in the 1970s. Ironically, Brooklyn has about the same number of people, and has gone in the opposite direction. From a peak of 2.7 million people, Brooklyn’s population fell to just 2.23 million in 1980. Its population has since rebounded to 2.65 million people.
Obviously, Upstate politicians are reluctant to downsize their friends and neighbors, because that might force even more to move away. This is a big under the radar issue for New York State. There isn’t a shortage of housing in this country, or even good housing (with a little reinvestment). There is a shortage of affordable good placesto live, where one can also earn a decent living. More of those may be disappearing, even as everyone tries to live in Brooklyn, and its housing prices soar.
In most states the trend is also down for state government Bureaucracy FTEs per 100,000 people, particularly starting in 2007. The decrease 2007 to 2017 was 7.8% for the U.S., 4.0% for New York State, 16.0% for New Jersey, 9.8% for Massachusetts, 5.0% for Vermont, and 2.7% for Pennsylvania. This doesn’t have to mean service cuts. Most of these Bureaucracy functions deal with information, and information technology has allowed significant increases in productivity in the private sector. I write a research report on the regional economy and commercial real estate market every day that would have taken me two weeks, at least, in the late 1980s working at the Department of City Planning. Information technology has allowed me to increase my productivity at least ten-fold.
In the Northeast, Connecticut bucked the trend with an 8.2% increase in state government Bureaucracy FTEs per 100,000 state residents.
I’m not going to go through the employment level and average cash pay for every single Bureaucracy function at both the state and local government level. But I do want to focus on three functions where the government has to compete for workers with very well paid industries in the private sector: Judicial and Legal, public Health, and Financial Administration.
In March 2017, New York State had 162 full time equivalent state and local government employees in the Judicial and Legal function, above the U.S. average of 130, the 142 for Massachusetts, the 118 for Vermont, and the 139 for Pennsylvania, but below the 216 for New Jersey and the 170 for Connecticut. At the state government level New York had 97 FTEs per 100,000 state residents, above the U.S. average of 55 but below most nearby states.
New York State’s local government Judicial and Legal employment per 100,000 residents was slightly below average, due to low employment in the Downstate Suburbs and Upstate Urban Counties. The U.S. average was 74. New York City was slightly below average at 73, and the Rest of New York State was just slightly above average at 75. This function is not the reason total Bureaucracy employment is so high in the Rest of New York State.
State government Judicial and Legal employment per 100,000 state residents fell in most states from 2007 to 2017. The decrease was 3.6% for the United States, 9.4% for New York State, 13.1% for New Jersey, and 10.6% for Massachusetts. The states that bucked the trend included Connecticut (up 21.7%), Vermont (up 11.9%), and Minnesota (up 13.6%).
With regard to local government Judicial and Legal employment, there was a 2.8% decrease per 100,000 people in the U.S. from 2007 to 2017, but a 5.2% increase in New York City. There was a 55.2% increase in the Rest of New York State, from a previously low level. The New York Timespublished a scathing analysis of the quality of law and justice in the state’s Justice of the Peace system in 2006. This may have caused localities in the Rest of New York State to beef up their staffing in the category, but only to around the U.S. average relative to population.
Periodically, the level of judicial pay, relative to private sector lawyers, is raised as an issue in New York State. The low pay level for public defenders is always an issue. In 2017, however, while the earnings of the average private sector worker (including the self employed) in New York State (including benefits) was only 12.0% higher than the U.S. average, the mean March payroll per full time equivalent state government worker in the Judicial and Legal function was 35.0% above the U.S. average. That would have been pretty good even in high-wage, high housing cost Downstate New York, but it is pretty rich for Upstate New York.
The cash pay of most Americans has been falling adjusted for inflation, as I showed in previous posts. From 2007 to 2017 the mean payroll per FTE U.S. state government Judicial and Legal worker increased 1.0%, to the equivalent of $68,179 per year (March data multiplied by 12). The increase was 8.6% in New York State, to $92,024, 0.4% in New Jersey, to $74,210, and 16.4% in Connecticut, to $77,436.
New York City’s local government Judicial and Legal workers were paid 19.4% more than the U.S. average in March 2017, about the same as the 21.4% above average for private sector workers (excluding Wall Street) in Downstate New York.
For local government workers in this category mean payroll per FTE has been going up as well relative to inflation, even as the private sector workers who are paying for it get squeezed. The U.S. increase was 5.1% more than inflation from 2007 to 2017, to the equivalent of $63,929, 11.4% for New York City, to $76,339, 7.6% for the Downstate Suburbs, to $83,417, 10.1% for the Upstate Urban Counties, to $67,083, but just 2.5% for the Rest of New York State, to $59,924.
The question New Yorkers have to ask is whether a lack of resources is the reason that New York court cases take so long to come to trial, which I discussed here.
The data implies, however, that New York State courts have more resources than the U.S. average, if not more than all the adjacent states, and the people who work there are very well compensated compared with similar government workers elsewhere.
What we do know is that the court system is the last bastion of old fashioned personal political patronage (as opposed to the newfangled interest group patronage) in New York State. The state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, is appointed, but local judges are “elected” in sham elections with only one name on the ballot, after being selected by political machines. I just voted in one such sham election, writing in protests rather than participate in the kind of election one would find in Assad’s Syria or North Korea (it’s worse than Iran or Russia). What we have with regard to electing judges is like being able to vote in favor of the one choice for the cop on the beat in your area, but not the appointed Mayor (ie. not the Court of Appeals). And since these are patronage jobs, the number of judges in each area is based on the amount of patronage each area gets, not the caseload.
A very political young man who is the son of one of my wife’s friends was organizing a protest against this corrupting system. The machine bought him off by appointing him my state legislature to replace a guy who retired. I liked him better as a rebel. Every now and then an enlightened justice tries to get court reform on the political agenda, with some success, but without changing anything fundamental.
Because it is the state legislators who control the political machines that appoint the judges.
Public health is, as mentioned, one Bureaucracy function for which New York State’s state and local government FTE employment per 100,000 people is below the U.S. average. The same may be said of New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maine and New Hampshire. This function can include the provision of health services as well as health regulation. But in the Northeast, actual health services are generally provided by private sector health care providers.
As in the case of social services, it would appear that in the Rest of New York State more Health services are provided directly by local government employees. Perhaps because private contractors are not as available. The U.S. average for local government FTE Health employees per 100,000 residents is 78, compared with 95 for New York City, 56 for both the Downstate Suburbs and Upstate Urban Counties, and 116 for the Rest of New York State.
The capacity of local governments in the Rest of New York State to pay for those public Health workers and their services appears to have plunged, however. The 116 FTE health workers per 100,000 people in the Rest of New York State in March 2017 is down from 167 in 2007, a decrease of 30.3%. This function is not the reason Bureaucracy employment is going up, relative to population, in the Rest of New York State.
In the face of falling life expectancy for the generations now under the age of 60, an opioids crisis, and a rising suicide rate, there was a decrease of 6.0% for the U.S. and New York City, 35.9% in the Downstate Suburbs, 35.5% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 12.7% in New Jersey, and 37.5% in Fairfield County. (There was an increase of 11.1% in the Rest of Connecticut.)
New York’s March state government public Health FTE employment per 100,000 state residents fell 15.2% from 2007 to 2017, compared with a negligible decrease for the U.S. as a whole. New Jersey was also down only slightly, after having jumped from 1997 to 2007. But Connecticut’s state employment in the Health category, relative to population, soared 71.3% over a decade.
New York State’s state government public Health employees may be relatively few in number, but they are well paid. In 2017, however, while the earnings of the average private sector worker (including the self employed) in New York State (including benefits) was only 12.0% higher than the U.S. average, the mean March cash payroll per full time equivalent state government worker in the Health function was 33.0% above the U.S. average. That, once again, would have been pretty good even in high-wage high housing cost Downstate New York, but it is pretty rich for Upstate New York.
It seems that state workers are paid relatively highly when there is a source of state tax revenue distant from where most of them work. For New York State that would be Manhattan. The mean private sector earnings per worker is 17.3% above the U.S. average in Connecticut, but the mean payroll per state government health worker was 33.5% above average. Residents of Fairfield County are very highly paid. The reason New Hampshire’s mean payroll per private sector worker is 1.8% higher than the U.S. average is the far south of the state is in metropolitan Boston, a very high-paid metro area. It’s state government Health workers were paid 6.8% more than average. Vermont’s mean earnings per private sector worker is 19.7% below the U.S. average, but the state has a state government property tax that captures revenues from the state’s many second homes. Its state government Health workers earned 11.7% more than the U.S. average.
The mean payroll per state government worker in the Health function is going up relative to inflation in most places. New Jersey is an exception, with a 14.8% decrease from 2007 to 2017, adjusted for inflation, to $66,980 if March payroll per FTE is multiplied by 12. The U.S. increase was 1.8% to $56,321 on average, and the New York State increase was 3.9% to $74,897.
While the mean earnings per private sector worker (excluding Wall Street) in metro New York was 21.4% above the U.S. average in 2017, the mean payroll per FTE local government employee in the Health function was 30.3% above average in New York City and 22.7% above average in the Downstate Suburbs.
Local government health mean payroll per employee is going up as well in the U.S. and New York State, relative to inflation, at a time when median private sector cash income has been going down, adjusted for education level. The 2007 to 2017 increase was 6.5% for the U.S., 15.7% for New York City, 2.0% for the Downstate Suburbs, 4.8% for the Upstate Urban Counties, and 8.9% for the Rest of New York State.
New York State’s state and local government FTE employment per 100,000 residents is moderately above the U.S. average in the Financial Administration function. This includes the state and local government comptrollers, the various budget departments, departments of finance, tax assessor offices and the like. The state & local government employment total in the category was 127 for the United States, compared with 152 for New York State, 117 for New Jersey, 112 for Connecticut, 120 for Massachusetts, 125 for Pennsylvania – and 210 for Vermont. For state government alone, the U.S. average was 54, compared with 84 for New York State.
At the local government level, there were 74 Financial Administration FTEs per 100,000 people in the U.S. as a whole, 55 in New York City, 65 in the Downstate Suburbs, 69 in the Upstate Urban Counties, 58 in New Jersey, 59 in Fairfield County, 64 in the Rest of Connecticut – and 124 in the Rest of New York State.
There are many small local governments in the Rest of New York State that required their own financial officers and workers. There are, in contrast, only two significant local governments in New York City, the City of New York and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The City of New York had 4,758 FTE Financial Administration employees in total in March 2017, up from 4,562 in March 2007. The State of New York had 16,489, up from 12,489.
After falling from 1997 to 2017, New York’s FTE state government Financial Administration employment per 100,000 people increased 28.9% from 2007 to 2017. The U.S. average fell 6.4%, and there were decreases of 22.6% in New Jersey, 40.0% in Connecticut, 14.0% in Massachusetts, and 6.6% in Pennsylvania. There was a 15.9% increase in California, however.
At the local government level, a rising population pushed New York City’s Financial Administration employment per 100,000 residents down 3.1% from 2007 to 2017, while a falling population contributed to a 28.2% increase in the Rest of New York State.
Like its Judicial and Legal employees and its public Health employees, New York State’s Financial Administration employees are relatively highly paid. While the mean earnings per private sector worker in the state was 12.0% above the U.S. average in 2017, the mean payroll per state government Financial Administration FTE was 19.6% above average.
Moreover, in the public sector pay tends to go up with years of experience, so if the number of workers is shrinking mean payroll per worker tends to rise, as there are fewer low-paid new hires, but when employment increases mean payroll per worker tends to fall, as additional low-paid new hires pull down the average. But state government Financial Administration employment increased in New York from 2007 to 2017.
And so did mean payroll per employee – by 14.4%, adjusted for inflation, to $71,316. The U.S. average also increased – by 4.8%, to $59,605. There was an increase of 17.6% in Connecticut, to $78,780, and a decrease of 0.8% in New Jersey, to $61,435.
New York City’s local government Financial Administration employees are also relatively well paid. While the mean earnings per private sector worker (excluding Wall Street) in metro New York were 21.4% above the U.S. average in 2017, the cash mean payroll per FTE local government Financial Administration worker in New York City was 36.4% above the U.S. average. The mean for the Downstate Suburbs was 18.6% above average.
The mean payroll per New York City local government Financial Activities FTE, moreover, is rising much faster than inflation – 22.4% in real dollars from 2007 to 2017, to $82,043.
New York City’s public employee pension funds, in estimating how much money needs to be set aside to fund future benefit payments, assume inflation will remain low, perhaps because the pay of most workers will continue to fall behind inflation. Despite higher educational attainment, the average Millennial is paid 25.0% less than the average Baby Boomer had been at the same age. The lower pay of other workers keeps the cost of living down for New York’s government workers, contractors, and retirees.
But the pension funds also assume that the average pay of New York City government workers will increase 1.0% more than inflation, on average, every year. That’s not a realistic assumption, I have believed, given soaring pension costs and the stress they put on the city’s budget. Cash pay would end up falling behind inflation for government workers too, I believed, to help fund those soaring benefit costs. But perhaps the City’s Financial Administration workers know better than I do, given that their mean payroll per worker increased more than 2.0% more than inflation from 2007 to 2017 – and from 1997 to 2007. Falling behind inflation over an entire business cycle is apparently only for the serfs.
Given how many Financial Administration workers there are at the state and local government level here, one might ask why it is that I’m providing this compilation of comparative Census of Governments employment and payroll data, on my own time working nights and weekend, and they are not?
Perhaps because the reality is no matter what your political party, or interest group, or ideology, or part of the state or country you reside in, there is going to be something in this data that you don’t want people to see. Taking just some of it, carefully selected to back a demand for more for you and yours and less for them and theirs, and hiding the rest? That’s fine. Just putting all of it out there for everyone to see? Not as a job. As I wrote – gee, 11 years ago, nobody’s gonna pay you to tell the truth.
As the costs from the past shifted to a sold out future by Generation Greed accumulate, we have passed the point of peak transparency in state and local government. New York City’s Office of Management and Budget no longer publishes tables showing how the full cost of city agencies, including pension costs and benefits, is proposed to change from year to year.
Comptroller Stringer, hoping for public employee union support for a future run for Mayor, made the $1.3 billion (or whatever it is up to now) in money extracted from the NYC Teacher pension fund to provide members of the teacher’s union with a guaranteed rate of return disappear in Census Bureau government finances data.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid stopped publishing state level data on Medicaid beneficiaries and expenditure by type of service and age of beneficiary after 2012 – seven years ago.
The “Chronology of the Plan,” which showed all the retroactive pension increases the New York City Teachers’ Union scored in deals with the state legislature it controls, has been deleted from the annual financial report of the New York City Teacher’s Retirement System, just as I expected. All except for the cut in benefits for new hires in 2012.
And the New York City and New York State Comptrollers, the officials charged with protecting the common future against the avarice of the present? They have stood by as New York City ended up with what would have been the second most sold out future among states if it were a separate state, based on debts, pension underfunding, and past infrastructure investment, even as the people of the city provided its political/union class with the highest state and local tax burden around.
Covering up the heist until their fellow Generation Greed members can slither off to Florida. Or even more infuriatingly, standing up like heroes to criticize the present consequences of the very past deals they themselves had voted for, along with the rest, as members of the New York State Legislature.
And the public advocates? As best I can tell the closest thing NYC has to an advocate for most of the present public, and any of the future public, is me.
As ticked off as I am about all this, however, fairness requires me to give credit where credit is due. By one measure, New York State is tied for second in being the state with the most transparent government finances. Tied with Indiana, behind California. That is providing the information for the next phase of the 2017 Census of Governments – the government finances phase. That was apparently released a few days ago, with no announcement or report or press release, presumably because the Bureau is still hoping to improve the data before making it final.
Note the document on local government response rates.
In New York State, the Bureau got data for 95.6% of local governments representing 99.8% of statewide local government expenditures, 99.7% of revenues, 99.8% of debt, and 99.4% of assets.
The U.S averages were data for 77.2% of local governments representing 92.0% of statewide local government expenditures, 93.0% of revenues, 94.8% of debt, and 91.6% of assets.
Among the worst states are Connecticut at 67.6% of local governments representing 84.1% of statewide local government expenditures, 77.8% of revenues, 83.3% of debt, and 71.2% of assets. And New Jersey at 73.5% of local governments representing 83.0% of statewide local government expenditures, 83.0% of revenues, 82.5% of debt, and 80.9% of assets.
This data, moreover, is coming out two years after the fact. The federal government requires public companies to provide comparable financial data to the SEC every single quarter, a few weeks after the quarter closes. Some difference, huh?
What word would I use to describe the actions of state and local government officials who did not provide the requested data to the U.S Census Bureau for the Census of Governments? How about unconstitutional.
Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says:
The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.
But invasion and domestic violence are only two of the many ways we Americans can lose our republican form of government. And not the way it is actually happening. Election laws that prevent actual competition for public office, like those of New York State, are another way.
So is misleading or absent information about government finances, which prevents the people from casting informed votes, if any are still interested in doing so.
The falsification of federal economic statistics is the next logical step in the direction of our society. For the moment, however, while it is likely that no one else is going to compile government finances data from the 2017 Census of Governments, New York State at least answered the census. I’ll do what I can at some point in the future, after I have recovered from this effort, and perhaps after the data has been updated or finalized.