Special Report

States Where the Most People Work for the Government

5. Oklahoma
> Pct. workers in government, 2015:
21.1%
> Pct. workers in government, 2005: 21.0% (6th highest)
> Chg. government workers (2005-2015): 9.7% (6th largest increase)
> People per square mile: 54.7 (16th fewest)

Over the last decade, Oklahoma’s employment composition has changed significantly. Employment in the information sector has declined faster than all but two states, while increasing employment in mining, logging, and construction, leisure and hospitality, and government has outpaced the nation as a whole. Government sector workers today makes up 21.1% of the Oklahoma workforce, the fifth largest such share nationwide.

4. Mississippi
> Pct. workers in government, 2015:
21.5%
> Pct. workers in government, 2005: 21.3% (5th highest)
> Chg. government workers (2005-2015): 1.4% (17th largest increase)
> People per square mile: 63.2 (19th fewest)

In Mississippi, 22.6% of people live in poverty, more than in any other state in the nation. Workers in poor states are not necessarily more likely to work for the government than those in more wealthy states. However, predominantly rural communities, which are often very poor, often rely heavily on government spending. Also, while private enterprises may not be thriving in poorer, rural areas, a certain level of public services, including most notably education and safety services, will always be necessary. Over half of Mississippi’s population live in rural areas.

3. New Mexico
> Pct. workers in government, 2015:
23.0%
> Pct. workers in government, 2005: 24.9% (2nd highest)
> Chg. government workers (2005-2015): -5.7% (5th largest decrease)
> People per square mile: 17.0 (6th fewest)

With only 17 people per square mile, New Mexico has the sixth-lowest population density of all states. With relatively low levels of private enterprise but necessary public services like safety and education, government tends to employ larger shares of the workforce in rural states. New Mexico is also home to a number of military research facilities, further increasing the level of government employment. According to think tank the Rand Corporation, the federal government spends over $2 billion on R&D in New Mexico annually, among the largest such expenditures nationwide.

2. Alaska
> Pct. workers in government, 2015:
24.2%
> Pct. workers in government, 2005: 26.2% (the highest)
> Chg. government workers (2005-2015): 1.6% (21st largest increase)
> People per square mile: 1.2 (the fewest)

Alaska is highly dependent on its oil industry. With the steep drop off in oil prices over the last several years, oil company investments have declined, layoffs have been announced, and even the government sector has slashed some of its spending. Alaska is the least densely populated state in the county and, like a number of other relatively rural states, Alaska’s workforce is dominated by the government sector. Rural communities are often extremely dependent on state funding.

1. Wyoming
> Pct. workers in government, 2015:
24.6%
> Pct. workers in government, 2005: 24.7% (3rd highest)
> Chg. government workers (2005-2015): 9.7% (5th largest increase)
> People per square mile: 5.8 (2nd fewest)

The local, state, and federal governments in Wyoming account for 24.6% of jobs, a larger percentage than in any other state. The mining, logging, and construction sector also employs a relatively large share of state residents, accounting for 16.3% of the state’s workforce. This is the highest share of employment compared to any other state’s mining, logging, and construction sector. The drop in oil prices over the past several years has likely had an outsized effect on Wyoming’s economy, as well as on government revenue. Governor Matt Mead instituted a statewide hiring freeze at the end of last year.