work force

R.I. has 6th-least government employees

STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT workers make up a smaller share of the total work force in Rhode Island than in most states. (Click here to view the full chart.)
Posted 6/3/10

PROVIDENCE – Contrary to popular belief, Rhode Island does not have all that many state and local government workers compared with other states, a new study has found.

Last year, there were 53,185 non-federal public employees in Rhode Island, with 33,940 of them working for local governments and 19,245 working for the state.

As a share of all public and private workers in Rhode Island, state and local government employees made up 12.1 percent of the total work force.

That was lower than both the national average of 13.6 percent and the totals for all but five other states: Pennsylvania, at 10 percent; New Hampshire and Colorado, 11.2 percent; Nevada, 11.5 percent; and Indiana, 11.8 percent.

State and local workers made up the largest share of the work force in Wyoming and Alaska, at 22 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively.

In New England, they were most prevalent in Vermont, at 14.8 percent, followed by Connecticut, 13.3 percent; Maine, 12.8 percent; and Massachusetts, 12.7 percent.

The statistics were included in a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal research group in Washington, that found state and local workers’ wages are often higher than private-sector workers’ because the former tend to be “older and substantially better educated.”

“When state and local government workers are matched with private-sector workers of the same age and the same level of education, the public employees actually earn less than their private-sector counterparts,” John Schmitt, a senior economist at the center, wrote in the study. He did not examine benefits such as health insurance or pensions.

In Rhode Island, the median age of a state and local government employee was 45, compared with a median age of 40 in the private sector, the study found.

And more than half of Rhode Island’s state and local workers – 59.3 percent – had at least a college degree, double the share with at least a four-year degree in the private sector, which was 29.6 percent.

State and local government employment in Rhode Island shrank 3.5 percent between June 2008 and June 2009, more than in any other state, according to a report released last summer by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Additional information is available at

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Perhaps it would have been better for Alaska if "Tea-Party" Sarah Palin hadn't quit as Governor of Alaska and, instead, worked to lower that State's second-place ranking of government employees as a percentage of its workforce.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Report this

Good story, and a starting point for further questions.

So if the number of public workers is not causing the state's reputed high taxes, then something else must be.

How do R.I.'s tax revenues per capita compare to other states?

Are taxes uniformly high for all R.I. residents, or are a disproportionate share of residents paying far too little, resulting in high taxes for the remainder?

What is the state spending per public employee, and how does that compare nationally?

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Report this

He did not examine benefits such as health insurance or pensions? This is all meaningless without those statistics - RI will blow the socks off of the rest of' 'em!

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Report this

A witless study by a witless Center for Economic and Policy Research. The real measure is what percentage of a state's overall GDP must be dedicated to funding government activities. This is not even mentioned in the study. How many employees are digging the ditches comes second to that criteria.

Friday, June 4, 2010 | Report this
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