Since the economic recovery began in 2010, the private sector has added 16 million jobs. At the same time, however, the number of public sector jobs has remained static. As a result, government employment as a share of total employment has declined from 17.3% to 15.2%, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.
Government employment across the country is far from evenly distributed. In some states, federal workers, as well as state and local government employees, account for anywhere between 12% and 25% of total employment.
While some might expect that high government spending would also entail substantial government employment, relative to the state’s workforce, the opposite tends to be true. Based on 2017 employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. ranked all 50 states based on federal, state, and local government employees as a share of total employment.
While states with government-friendly political environments, such as New York, Pennsylvania, and California, might spend more overall, they tend to have the fewest government jobs as a share of total state employment. Rather, sparsely-populated states, such as Wyoming, Alaska, and Montana, have relatively larger public sector workers.
Martin Kohli, chief regional economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, explained that the primary reason for this is that government services, particularly local government jobs, exist even in small towns. Such government services provide jobs even if there are no major sources of private sector jobs.
“Nationally, about one out of every 20 jobs in the country and about one out of every three government jobs is in local government education,” said Kohli. “If a small town in Wyoming wants to have a school, that school is going to be a significant share of local employment,” Kohli added.