Government Relativity

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece pointed out that there are twice as many people working for the government than in manufacturing, a condition that was exactly the opposite in 1960. Only two states (Indiana and Wisconsin) defy the prevalent condition, which means Pennsylvania is among the larger group with more people working for the government than making things.

Just counting state and local employees-not people working for the Federal government in Pennsylvania-the Census Bureau’s Government Employment and Payroll Data shows 605,927 full time equivalents (FTE) in 2009. That’s up 6% from 2003, when Pennsylvania had 569,356 state and local FTE employees.

Measured against population in the Commonwealth (which is up 2% over the same 2003-2009 time frame) state and local employment per 10,000 people has grown 4% from 461 employees to 481 employees. The majority of the growth has come from local government, where the per 10,000 people headcount went from 332 to 351 (6%), and in 2009 Pennsylvania had 442,024 local employees, up from 409,893 in 2003. Remember that when thinking about the low productivity and lack of improvement in local services like education and public transit.

If state and local employment growth had been held to the change in population, the state would have about 20,000 fewer FTE in 2009 than it has now. That could mean a lot given the legacy cost troubles faced by many of the large population centers in the state and for taxpayers across the Commonwealth. It might have also encouraged governments to look at core services and see what could be better provided by the private and non-profit sectors.