Category Archives: local government employment

The Upstate NY Rural Population Boom?

Last August I downloaded population and earnings data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, from its Local Area Personal Income series, to use in my compilation of state and local government employment per 100,000 people.  The data was for 1997, 2007, and 2017.  As always I divided the state into four regions.  New York City, whose population I got by adding up the five boroughs. The Downstate Suburbs, which I got by adding up Nassau, Putman, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester Counties.  The Upstate Urban Counties, the sum of Albany, Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady Counties.  And the rural and small Rest of New York State, which I got by subtracting the other three areas from the state total. The data showed a big population drop for this part of the state from 2007 to 2017 – and a thus huge increase in local government employment per 100,000 people.

Local Area Personal Income data has been updated to 2018 recently.

https://www.bea.gov/data/income-saving/personal-income-county-metro-and-other-areas

And I started downloading it for possible use in another analysis.  New York State’s 2017 population was exactly the same as the estimate released a year earlier.  But New York City’s 2017 population was slashed by 184,427 (2.1%), with smaller decreases for the Downstate Suburbs and Upstate Urban Counties.    Which means that since the Rest of New York State was obtained by subtraction, its population 2017 had soared by 247,319, a full 10.3% increase!  Despite the fact that the 2017 population estimate for virtually every individual county in the Rest of New York State has gone down!  It isn’t a surprise that the numbers are different.  Numbers are revised all the time based on new information.  But changes of this magnitude, despite NO change in the state total?

The best case scenario is a screw up.  Which is pretty much what I believe about next year’s 2020 Census of Population.

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Bureaucracy: 2017 Census of Governments Employment & Payroll Data

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.

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Public Amenities: Census of Governments Employment & Payroll for 2017

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.

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Infrastructure: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

This series of posts based on Census of Governments state and local government employment and payroll data for March 2017 (and 2007 and 1997) continues with a post on infrastructure functions:  highways and streets, mass transit, air transportation, water transportation, government-run electric and gas utilities, water supply, sewerage, and solid waste management.  Along with related private sector activity.  When I joined New York City Transit out of graduate school in 1986, I was told it was the largest industrial/blue collar employer in New York City.  It probably still is, with the other functions described adding as many blue collar jobs, and jobs with contractors many more.

In the past 10 years or so, subway riders have experienced a drastic decrease in their quality of life despite rising fares, relative to the very low inflation of the period.  This is something I have attributed to costs from the past – the big pension increase in 2000, with huge costs deferred until later, and decades of zero state and city funding for the MTA capital plan, with money borrowed instead.  But after reviewing the data for these functions, I have begun to worker if even worse is coming. And not just at the MTA. But we will have water!

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Hospitals, Social Services, and Housing: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

Health care vies with elementary and secondary education as the largest destination for federal and state government spending.  In fact, when I added it up in 2006 the federal, state and local governments were already paying for 75.0% to 80.0% of third party (insurance and public program) health care expenditures nationwide, which is to say expenditures other than co-payments and services people pay for themselves in cash (such as cosmetic surgery).  Directly (Medicare, Medicaid, the VA Hospital system) or indirectly (health insurance purchased on behalf of civilian public employees and their families, the exclusion of employer funded health insurance from taxable income, other tax breaks).

Socialized Medicine? Get Real, It’s Already Here

Since then the population has aged, leading to more Medicare and Medicaid spending, Medicaid has been expanded to more working people, and Obamacare has added another form of indirect federal support for private health insurance.  For all the discussion of “socialized medicine,” here in the U.S. the government share of third party health care expenditures is probably up to 85.0% or so, and as a percent of GDP it probably exceeds the cost of the entire health care system in developed countries.

Health care and social services, however, are provided by the government primarily through payments to private sector organizations, generally non-profits in New York City and throughout the Northeast.  Therefore in this, the fifth post based on my tabulation of state and local government employment and payroll data from the 2017 Census of Governments, data on related private sector organizations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will take center stage.   And this analysis features the most shocking trend I have found so far.

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Public Safety: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

In March 1997, New York City was very early into what would become a long decline in its crime rate.  The number of officers was inflated by thousands of extra officers hired with an extra tax surcharge under the “Safe Streets Safe City” plan under former Mayor Dinkins and his police commissioner Ray Kelly.  New York City had 42,715 full time equivalent police officers, 2.7 times as many as the US. average per 100,000 residents.  By March 2007 crime had plunged, a decrease widely credited to the “Broken Window” and “Compstat” innovations of former Mayor Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and his successors.  The city promoted itself as the safest in the nation.  New York City had 46,776 police officers, 2.8 times the U.S. average per 100,000 residents.  In March 2017 crime had plunged further. Mayor Bill DeBlasio had been elected in part by promising to get an out of control police department back under control.  New York City had 49,477 police officers, or 2.9 times the U.S. average per 100,000 residents, though their mean pay was only slightly above the U.S. average.

So data from the various Censuses of Governments that I have tabulated over the decades has shown.  But is that really the case?  And what about the NYC Fire Department, the much-criticized NYC Corrections Department, the state prisons, and comparable agencies elsewhere in New York State, the NY metro area and country?  Are we really being told the truth about the actual reason for the plan to close the jails at Rikers Island?  Let’s take a look.

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Public Higher Education: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

The big issue in higher education, or at least the one that has been pushed in the media, is the burden of student loans.  And the explanation for this crisis that has been advanced is the rising cost of college.  According to sources deemed reliable, while tuition has soared in private colleges and universities due to an amenities arms race and a better deal for faculty, in public higher education unwilling taxpayers are to blame.

https://hbr.org/2019/09/what-will-it-take-to-solve-the-student-loan-crisis

The roots of rising college and university costs are not difficult to identify. For the nation’s 1,600-plus public institutions, the chief culprit has been major reductions in state support; public investment in higher education has been in retreat in the states since about 1980, according to the American Council on Education. State funding and subsidies were cut by more than $7 billion between 2008 and 2018. What many call the “privatization of public higher education” has shifted most of the states’ share of instructional costs to students and their families, with disruptive results for both students and institutions.

Here is another “study” saying the same thing.

https://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/rb/RB_512HJRB.pdf

I once believed it, but when whenever I looked at the available Census Bureau data on higher education finances, it didn’t fully support it. With the availability of state and local government employment and payroll data for the 2017 Census of Governments, I took another look.

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