Public Sector Costs Rank Below Most States
State ranks 47th in government employees per capita and 39th in payroll costs.
Wisconsin is leaner in most types of public sector jobs than all but a few other states, according to a review of employment figures by Governing.
Only three states have fewer public workers working in areas other than education than Wisconsin, according to the analysis. For every 10,000 state residents, Wisconsin has 199 public non-education employees. That’s less than half the number of public employees per population in Wyoming, which had the most public employees for its population size, and 50% less than the number of public employees per population in New York, Mississippi, and Alaska. Only three states had a smaller number of public employees than Wisconsin for their population size.
Wisconsin also ranked relatively low in payroll costs. For every $100,000 in personal income, Wisconsin governments spent $202 in March 2014 for non-education public employees. Only 11 states have lower payroll costs as a share of personal income.
Governing relied on U.S. Census Bureau figures from March 2014 for the analysis. Because the share of public workers working in education is significant, Governing looked at those workers separately from other public workers.
In K-12 education, Wisconsin ranks 35th highest among the states in the number of public workers for our population size, meaning that only 15 states have fewer K-12 education workers, and 27th in payroll costs per personal income. In higher education, Wisconsin ranks 14th highest among the states for the number of public employees, and 12th highest in their payroll costs as a share of personal income in the state, according to the analysis. One of the reasons that Wisconsin has more public employees working in higher education than most other states is that Wisconsin has a relatively high number of students attending public institutions. Wisconsin ranks 16th among the states in the number of students attending public two-year or four-year colleges for our size.
Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Budget Project reviewed the number of public employees in Wisconsin compared to other states. While we sliced the numbers a little differently, our analysis reached the same conclusion as the one in Governing: compared to other states, Wisconsin has relatively few public employees and low payroll costs.