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States With the Most Government Employees

Across the country, millions of people work in the public sector, including teachers, clerks and soldiers. The different levels of government employ 16% of U.S. workers, according to a recent Gallup survey. The federal government employs 4.5%, state governments 6.3% and local governments 5.2%.

Click here to see the states with the most government employees

The percentage of people employed by government in each state varies widely. In Indiana, government entities employ only 11.5% of workers. In Alaska, they employ 28%. Based on Gallup’s survey of government employment by state for 2012, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the most government workers.

There are a number of reasons why government employment is very high in some states. Several have a significant military presence. For instance, North Carolina is home to eight military bases, including the largest army post in the country. Other states with a large military presence relative to their populations include Hawaii and Virginia. In fact, the four states with the largest percentages of government workers are all among the top five states for per capita spending by the U.S. Department of Defense.

In addition, several of the states — Maryland, Virginia and even parts of West Virginia — are close to Washington D.C., the hub of federal government employment. Cities such as Bethesda, Md., and Arlington, Va., are within the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Virginia is also home to the Pentagon, where tens of thousands of civilian and uniformed employees work. Maryland is home to the National Institutes of Health, which employs thousands as well.

There are other reasons why some of these states have a large government presence. For instance, the U.S. Department of the Interior employs a large proportion of Alaska’s population. In Washington and New Mexico, which border Canada and Mexico, the many ports of entry help boost the percentage of people who are government workers.

When government employment takes a hit, these states are most directly affected, and that has been the case over the past few years. Governments have been laying off workers since the middle of 2008, mostly at the local level. Of the 725,000 government jobs that have been cut since 2008, 80% have been in local government, according to Martin Kohli, Chief Regional Economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS projects that local government employment will increase through 2012, led by demand at schools serving growing populations. Federal government jobs, however, are projected to decline. “We’re expecting things like the post office are going to continue to shrink, as people are using email to do things more, they’re paying bills electronically and magazine circulation is falling,” says Kohli.

There also will be long-term declines in other non-post office federal departments, says Kohli. States like Virginia, Alaska, Hawaii and Maryland, where more than one in five jobs are in the federal government, likely will be the most severely affected by this.

Based on Gallup’s Government Employment by State, 2012 survey, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the largest proportion of its workers employed by the government. Gallup broke down government employment at the federal, state and local levels. Information on median income and unemployment came from the U.S. Census Bureau. Changes in government employment came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Defense spending figures came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Report.

These are the 10 states with the most government workers.