Graphic Summary: 2017 Census of Governments, Employment and Payroll

Back in late 2019, I published a tabulation of data from the employment and payroll phase of the 2017 Census of Governments.  The data included full-time equivalent (full time workers plus part time workers converted into full time workers based on hours worked) state and local government employment, by function (police, parks, schools), per 100,000 residents of each area.  The population data was taken from Local Area Personal Income spreadsheets from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  For the population of the rural areas of New York State as a whole, I subtracted New York City, the Downstate Suburbs, and the Upstate Urban Counties from the state total.  All this sort of data usually gets revised as new information becomes available.  But when the new population data was released, soon after I had completed the entire effort with spreadsheets, tables, charts and posts, what I found was a shock.

Somehow the population data for New York City had been altered – and inflated, thus reducing apparent NYC government employment per 100,000 residents. This wasn’t the usual correction. It turns out that in the old data, all the state’s counties combined didn’t add to the New York State total! Since I had gotten the population for the rural Rest of New York State by subtraction, the population of that region was underestimated by a significant percent, causing the region’s population losses, and its government employment per 100,000 residents, to be exaggerated.

I immediately published revised versions of the large spreadsheets with data for all government functions.  And now, I have gone back and altered the spreadsheets on individual government functions, the tables, the charts, and the posts on those functions, as well. The changes aren’t great enough to alter any conclusions.  I changed many numbers, in the tables, charts and text, but very few words.  Right is right, however, and the data linked here has now been fixed for that BEA error.

Having made that effort, I have decided to publish a graphic summary of the employment and payroll phase of the 2017 Census of Governments, along with links back to the more detailed (and now corrected) posts.


That effort began this post, one that described where the data came from and how it was tabulated.

Total local government employment is falling relative to population, as more public money is shifted to public employee retirement benefits and to health care, a public function that is mostly carried out by private-sector (often non-profit) workers.

It would be nice if these reductions were associated with productivity gains, but the evidence suggests that service cuts have been a greater factor.

The function that employs the most local government workers is the public schools, because most of those providing government-funded health care work for private sector organizations.  The post on local government education employment is here.

Because the large “Millennial” generation was exiting school during the period, public school instructional employment per 100,000 residents fell from 2007 to 2017 nationwide.

But students per instructional employee didn’t rise nationally, and plunged in NY as excess teachers and administrators remained on the payroll. NYC had fewer than 8.0 students per instructional employee despite much higher class sizes in March 2017. Rural areas of the state were down to just 6.5.  

(The NYC teacher’s union, the UFT, has endorsed Comptroller Scott Stringer for Mayor.  He promised two teachers in every classroom, to get more dues paying members on the payroll).

Given a choice, a much larger share of parents would choose charter schools, especially those who cannot afford to pay for private school.  Private school enrollment per 100,000 residents has increased even as the Millennials exited schools.

The post on public safety functions – police, fire, and corrections – is here.

For all the discussion of de-funding the police, the reality is that NYC has 2.2 times as many police officers per 100,000 residents than the national average, and more than just about all the counties containing the country’s major cities.  And far more retired officers than officers on the job, thanks to a 20 and out pension.

(The police unions haven’t made an endorsement, but perhaps they are in favor of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, an ex-cop known for parking on the sidewalk.)

New York City’s local government corrections employment did fall from March 1997 to March 2007, thanks to a lower crime rate and far fewer inmates. The decrease slowed from March 2007 to March 2017.

The next post was on employment in hospitals, health, social services and housing.

The big trend in health and social services is how many more workers are required to provide services to seniors in New York City than anywhere else in the country.

And how many more are required than in the past, thanks to the explosive growth of the Medicaid-funded Home Health Care industry.  According to a recent indictment for Medicaid fraud, the cost of Medicaid-funded home health care has tripled in the past few years. 

In contrast, in the states where seniors move, such as Florida and North Carolina, employment in these industries is falling per 1,000 people ages 75+.  These already low tax states have been cutting taxes in the face of unmet needs, while high-tax New York has been increasing taxes.

(It is likely that the Home Health Care workers are represented by Local 1199, which has endorsed former top city aide Maya Wiley for Mayor).

With the soaring cost of senior health care and other services (and public employee pensions and retiree health care), there has been left available for services such as housing and public health.

The post on infrastructure – transportation, water and sewer, and solid waste collection – is here.

It sure takes a lot of workers to pick up New York City’s garbage, compared with other places.  New York City’s mean payroll per sanitation worker is also very high, even when the higher cost of living in NYC is taken into account.

(The sanitation workers’ union has endorsed former NYC Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia for Mayor).

New York City has spent big on infrastructure capital construction expenditures over the past 30 years, but the amount of actual infrastructure hasn’t been as large, because the costs have soared. Neither has private Heavy Construction industry employment in the New York area. The MTA has been particularly affected by soaring capital costs, and is now deep in debt.

(The construction unions have endorsed Eric Adams for Mayor).

This post is on “public amenities” functions such as parks and recreation, culture, and libraries.

After having been much lower in many years, New York City’s Parks, Recreation and Culture employment per 100,000 residents was at the U.S. average in March 2017.  It was still lower than in many cities, where people rely on such facilities rather than their own private yards and other private spaces.

New York City, however, also has extensive private employment in these categories, as its museums, botanic gardens, zoos and some parks are operated by city-funded non-profit organizations.

The final post was on general government functions grouped together as “bureaucracy.”

New York’s state and local government “bureaucracy” employment was above the U.S. average in NY 2017, after having been about average previously.

Local government in rural areas of the state accounted for much of that difference.  The corrected population numbers make that difference seem less extreme, but do not eliminate it.  Moreover, “full time equivalent” measure understates the number of Upstaters who get at least some income from government jobs, because governments are too small to employ full time officials, and many of the public jobs in small town and rural upstate are part time or seasonal. A stagnant to slightly falling population is a factor in rising bureaucracy employment relative to population.

Perhaps, meanwhile, San Francisco deserves some of its reputation.

The Census Bureau does publish annual equivalents of this data, but only as estimates at the state level, based on a survey.  The “individual unit” data can be used to get data for local government in New York City, and therefore for the Rest of New York State by subtraction.  But I may not re-do this work until the next Census of Governments comes out with data for all local governments, with data for March 2022.

Meanwhile, for those who missed the Graphic Summary of my tabulation the finance phase of the Census of Governments (revenues by type, expenditures by functions, debt, assets), complete with links to the individual posts, it is here.