Special Report

States Where the Most People Work for the Government

While federal workers tend to gain the most national attention, they are a minority among government employees. The vast majority of government employees – 64.5% – actually work at the local level. This includes employees that comprise the administrative organization and management of cities, counties, and districts, as well as workers who help maintain public services such as education and waste management. In comparison, only 12.6% of government jobs are at the federal level.

One trait shared by the states with high government employment is that they tend to have especially low levels of population density. Alaska, which has the second highest share of government employees, has the lowest population density in the country with only 1.2 people per square mile. Wyoming, which has the largest concentration of government workers, has the second lowest population density among states, with only 5.8 people per square mile. These two states also have relatively small workforces in general. Due to the many basic societal services provided by government, such jobs will be needed in sparsely populated states as well as densely populated ones. Larger populations do not necessitate a proportional number of government jobs, however.

States with lower government employment, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, tend to be much more densely packed. Rhode Island, for example, has 1,018.1 people per square mile.

In 31 states, a higher share of workers is employed by the government today compared to a decade ago. Among the 10 states with the greatest shares of those working in government, the percentages have increased in every state except for New Mexico. The opposite trend can be seen among the 10 states with the lowest share of government workers. In 8 of the 10 states, government employment as a share of total jobs has declined.

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