States Where the Most People Work for the Government

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The U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs in April 2019, the 103rd month of consecutive job growth — by far the longest stretch in U.S. history. The job growth has been driven almost exclusively by the private sector. Public sector employment, meanwhile, has declined slightly, as the number of Americans working for federal, state, or local governments fell from 22.5 million to 22.4 million over the last decade.

Despite a brief federal hiring freeze imposed by President Donald Trump in 2017 and a federal employee salary freeze the following year, federal government employment grew by 1.2% between 2008 and 2018. The net decline in government employment took place at the state and local level. In the face of falling tax revenue and budget constraints, state and local government payrolls have been slashed in recent years. Tight state budgets also partially explain why teaching, one of the largest public sector occupations, ranks among the lowest paying jobs for college graduates.

While opinions on the proper size and role of government vary across the political spectrum, government workers at all levels, from the Pentagon to the classroom, provide essential public services.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the states where government workers make up the largest share of the labor force. Nationwide, 15.1% of workers are employed in the public sector. Government employment tends to be concentrated in sparsely populated states. In these areas, private industry is not as dominant, yet residents still rely on government services like public works and education.

Active duty servicemen and servicewomen are not included in public sector employment tallys, and as a result, states with the most people in the military do not necessarily rank highly on this list.

Source: ddub3429 / Getty Images

50. Nevada
> Gov’t. employees, 2018: 11.6% of workforce
> Gov’t employment change, 2008-2018: -0.1% (161,200 to 161,000)
> State gov’t. spending per capita: $8,186 (4th lowest)
> Population density: 25 per sq. mi. (9th lowest)

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

49. Pennsylvania
> Gov’t. employees, 2018: 11.7% of workforce
> Gov’t employment change, 2008-2018: -7.5% (759,700 to 702,900)
> State gov’t. spending per capita: $11,210 (18th highest)
> Population density: 284 per sq. mi. (9th highest)

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

48. Rhode Island
> Gov’t. employees, 2018: 12.3% of workforce
> Gov’t employment change, 2008-2018: -3.9% (63,500 to 61,000)
> State gov’t. spending per capita: $11,499 (15th highest)
> Population density: 1,018 per sq. mi. (2nd highest)

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

47. Massachusetts
> Gov’t. employees, 2018: 12.5% of workforce
> Gov’t employment change, 2008-2018: +4.0% (437,000 to 454,500)
> State gov’t. spending per capita: $13,056 (6th highest)
> Population density: 839 per sq. mi. (3rd highest)

Source: Sumter BOCC / Wikimedia Commons

46. Florida
> Gov’t. employees, 2018: 12.7% of workforce
> Gov’t employment change, 2008-2018: -1.5% (1.13 million to 1.11 million)
> State gov’t. spending per capita: $7,969 (3rd lowest)
> Population density: 351 per sq. mi. (8th highest)