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Robert Longley

How Many Government Workers Does it Take?

By February 3, 2012

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LinemanUnlike the 1.8 million federal government employees, we don't know how happy the people who work for the state and local governments are, but we do know that there were 19.6 million of them at the end of March, 2010, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau's Survey of Public Employment and Payroll Summary Report: 2010 shows that as of March, 2010, the approximately 90,000 U.S. state, and local government entities employed 19,599,463 people in full- and part-time jobs. The state governments, including the District of Columbia, employed 5.3 million people, while local governments employed 14.3 million people.

The number of state and local government employees actually decreased by 244,679 between 2009 and 2010, marking the first year since 1992 during which total employment in state and local governments decreased. Due mainly to recession-driven budget cutbacks resulting in layoffs and early retirement programs, local governments lost 224,479 jobs, while the states lost 20,200 jobs.

Despite the job losses, state and local government payrolls contributed a combined $70.4 billion to the economy during 2010, an increase of 0.3% from 2009. State governments paid $19.6 billion in total payroll during March 2010, while local governments provided $50.8 billion in payroll during the month.

Also See: The US Government Job Finder

What Do They Do? The majority of state and local government employees, about 11.1 million of them, worked in schools and colleges. About 1.1 million people, or 5.5% of all public employees, were employed in hospitals; and 1.0 million people, or 5.2 percent of all public employees, were employed in law enforcement. Corrections and prisons was the next largest functional category, accounting for 700,000 employees. The remaining 5.6 million employees, or 28.8% of state and local government workers, worked in other functional categories.

How Much Do They Make? "I am a lineman for the county, and I make 6 grand a month..." The Census Bureau's report shows that state and local government employees who work in electrical power generation and transmission were the highest paid workers, making an average of $6,061 in March 2010. Police officers earned an average of $5,452 that month, while workers in water storage and delivery fields earned $5,169. Public transit employees were the fourth highest compensated group of public employees earning an average of $4,956. Firefighters earned an average of $4,678 in the month of March, the fifth highest salary among all occupational groups.

The national average pay for full-time state and local government employees was $4,388 for March of 2010. State and local government workers in the District of Columbia, California, and New Jersey earned the highest salaries in the nation, earning an average of $5,900; $5,774; and $5,540, respectively.

Also See:
Survey to Identify Best US Government Jobs
Federalism: National vs. State Government

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Photo: A Lineman for the County -- Scott Olson/Getty Images

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