State Government Employment

The Great Recession had an unprecedented effect on state and local government employment: From a peak level of employment in 2008 to its lowest point in July 2013, state governments lost more than 150,000 jobs. Since July 2013, however, state government employment job losses have leveled off, and 35,000 jobs were added between July and November 2013.

  Download the Brief in PDF / E-Reader Compatible Format: East, Midwest, South, West

  Download the Excel Version of the Table: "State Government Employment"

National Analysis:

The importance of government employment to the local labor market varies by state.1

  • In November 2013, federal, state and local governments employed 21.8 million employees, which make up 16 percent of total, nonfarm employment.
  • The share of total employment that government employees make up has remained fairly stable over the past 50 years, ranging from a low of 15.7 percent in 1999 to a high of 19.4 percent in 1975.
  • The majority of government employees—64 percent—work for local government, while state employees make up 23 percent and federal employees make up 12 percent.
  • In November 2013, state governments employed about 5.1 million people. Rhode Island had the fewest state government employees—16,218, while California had the most—479,254. 
  • State government employees made up 3.7 percent of total, nonfarm employment in 2013, but that percentage varies across states, from 2.5 percent in Illinois and 2.7 percent in Florida to 11.8 percent in Hawaii and 7.8 percent in Alaska.
  • On a per capita basis2, there were 1.7 state government employees for every 100 residents nationally in 2013, but that rate ranged from 1.1 employees for every 100 residents in Florida and Illinois to 5.1 in Hawaii and 3.5 in Alaska. 

The Great Recession had a negative impact on state government employment; for more than three years, state government employment contracted. Employment levels are now beginning to recover.

  • State government employment reached a peak level in the middle of the Great Recession, hitting just above 5.2 million employees in August 2008. From a peak level of employment in 2008 to its lowest point in July 2013, state governments lost more than 150,000 jobs.
  • Since July 2013, however, state government employment job losses have leveled off, and 35,000 jobs were added between July and November 2013.
  • From 2008 to 2013, Louisiana shed the largest percentage of state government employment—12.7 percent, followed by Alabama, which shed 6.5 percent.

 

Regional Analysis:

  • Across the 11 states in CSG’s Eastern region, state governments employed 985,236 people in 2013.
  • State government employment makes up the largest percentage of total employment in CSG’s Southern and Western regions, each with 4.1 percent, while the Midwestern region comes in third with 3.6 percent of employment. The Eastern region has the smallest percentage—3.4 percent.
  • As a percent of total regional employment, state government employment makes up the largest chunk in Delaware—7.4 percent, while it makes up the smallest chunk in Pennsylvania—2.8 percent.
  • From 2008 to 2013, three states in the region—Maryland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire—saw state government employment increase. The remaining eight states in the region saw employment decline, with the largest declines occurring in Maine (6.1 percent) and New Jersey (5.6 percent).

  • Across the 11 states in CSG’s Midwestern region, there were 1,006,100 state employees in 2013.
  • State government employment makes up the largest percentage of total employment in CSG’s Southern and Western regions, each with 4.1 percent, while the Midwestern region comes in third with 3.6 percent of total employment. The Eastern region has the smallest percentage—3.4 percent.
  • As a percent of total regional employment, state government employment makes up the largest chunk in North Dakota—5.6 percent—while it makes up the smallest chunk in Illinois—2.5 percent.
  • From 2008 to 2013, five states in the region—Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and Wisconsin—saw state government employment decrease. The remaining six states in the region saw employment increase, with the largest gains occurring in North Dakota (7.3 percent) and Nebraska (5 percent).

  • Across the 15 states in CSG’s Southern region, there were 1,997,500 state employees in 2013. 
  • State government employment makes up the largest percentage of total employment in CSG’s Southern and Western regions, each with 4.1 percent, while the Midwestern region comes in third with 3.6 percent of total employment. The Eastern region has the smallest percentage—3.4 percent.
  • As a percent of total regional employment, state government employment makes up the largest chunk in West Virginia—6.7 percent, while it makes up the smallest chunk in Florida—2.7 percent.
  • From 2008 to 2013, seven states in the region saw state government employment increase or stay the same, with the largest gains occurring in Kentucky (12.6 percent) and West Virginia (10.7 percent). The remaining eight states in the region saw employment decline, with the largest declines occurring in Louisiana (12.7 percent) and Alabama (6.5 percent).

  • Across the 13 states in CSG’s Western region, there were 1,230,509 state employees in 2013. 
  • State government employment makes up the largest percentage of total employment in CSG’s Southern and Western regions, each with 4.1 percent, while the Midwestern region comes in third with 3.6 percent of total employment. The Eastern region has the smallest percentage—3.4 percent.
  • As a percent of total regional employment, state government employment makes up the largest chunk in Hawaii—7.8 percent, while it makes up the smallest chunk in Nevada—3.2 percent.
  • From 2008 to 2013, six states in the region—Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico and Washington—saw state government employment decrease, with the largest declines occurring in Idaho (5.2 percent) and Arizona (4.1 percent). The remaining seven states in the region saw employment increase, with the largest gains occurring in Montana (12.7 percent) and Colorado (12.2 percent).
     

References:

1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, State and Area Employment, Hours, and Earnings, seasonally adjusted, http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/dsrv
2 Includes only state government workers and resident population across the 50 states.