Local Government Employment: A Downward Trend

March 24, 2011 by Emsi Burning Glass

image of Lightcast gradiant

In today’s New York Times, Jennifer Medina writes about the bold, swift move made by Costa Mesa, Calif., officials to lay off 200 of the city’s 450 workers and outsource tasks like firefighting and street cleaning.

Costa Mesa, Medina notes, is just another city where fiscal problems have boiled over. She also points to what’s unfolding, albeit at a much slower pace, at the state level in Wisconsin.

The layoffs have deeply divided this small city, just over the coast from affluent Newport Beach. While Costa Mesa has long been a politically conservative enclave, much like the other wealthy suburbs that surround it, the move to privatize so many city services strikes many residents as a harsh political tactic, meant to remake the city into a national model in the battle over public employee unions.

But the City Council, which moved quickly to approve the outsourcing and layoff plans, says the layoffs are the only way to solve a budget gap of as much as $15 million next year and deal with pensions that grow exponentially each year, eating away at the city’s $93 million budget.

“We see the train wreck coming and the only questions are how bad it will be and how quickly we want to try to stop it,” said City Councilman Jim Righeimer, who has led the push for outsourcing and has battled with public employee unions for years. “We have to stop blaming other people and start to solve these problems ourselves. These are hardworking people, but we know we cannot afford to keep paying what we have been.”

This is the Wisconsin labor battle in miniature — union officials and opponents of the layoffs say it is politics and not money that is driving the decision. City officials say they do not know how much money they will save by outsourcing, although Mr. Righeimer said he expected to cut anywhere from 15 to 40 percent in labor costs.

City-level layoffs are likely to become much more common in coming months. But recent employment data trends indicate this is not a new story — local government jobs in most states have declined since 2009.

The following map and table give a state-by-state look at this industry (NAICS 930) using EMSI’s first quarter 2011 dataset. All but 11 states shed local government jobs from 2009-2010, and overall the industry lost more than 240,000 jobs (-2% employment change).

Note: Click on any of the column headers in the following table to re-sort the data.

State2009 Jobs2010 Jobs1 Year Growth% Growth2010 EPW2009 LQTexas (TX)1,240,7131,246,6875,9740%$50,2481.06Missouri (MO)284,386286,2651,8791%$49,6860.97North Carolina (NC)440,018440,9849660%$49,4911.02Wisconsin (WI)282,845283,7418960%$50,1510.99South Carolina (SC)216,828217,4235950%$52,0221.07Wyoming (WY)44,32544,7153901%$52,4921.37Idaho (ID)75,23075,5292990%$43,3041.03South Dakota (SD)45,98446,2292451%$40,0991Alaska (AK)37,41937,5811620%$56,3881.01New Hampshire (NH)58,92659,0371110%$51,8210.86North Dakota (ND)37,78837,835470%$42,3620.93Vermont (VT)30,05629,897-159-1%$46,3530.87Delaware (DE)24,80224,569-233-1%$58,8010.57Montana (MT)47,14446,830-314-1%$46,4000.91Utah (UT)112,512112,060-4520%$43,1300.84Hawaii (HI)19,01418,492-522-3%$69,8680.27West Virginia (WV)76,22675,436-790-1%$44,9751.01Nebraska (NE)110,462109,469-993-1%$47,4721.09Rhode Island (RI)35,02133,858-1,163-3%$72,3420.72Iowa (IA)168,485167,144-1,341-1%$46,9041.04Maine (ME)60,49759,150-1,347-2%$48,0110.91Kentucky (KY)179,522178,076-1,446-1%$47,8890.93New Mexico (NM)107,771106,262-1,509-1%$47,4401.21Arkansas (AR)113,850112,274-1,576-1%$47,1170.89Kansas (KS)185,094183,281-1,813-1%$42,8591.22Oregon (OR)185,348183,132-2,216-1%$57,0071.02District of Columbia (DC)40,69737,909-2,788-7%$83,1770.61Massachusetts (MA)259,599256,675-2,924-1%$62,9090.76Louisiana (LA)224,337221,194-3,143-1%$49,4731.07Connecticut (CT)158,970155,554-3,416-2%$76,1650.88Tennessee (TN)279,432276,001-3,431-1%$47,4680.95Mississippi (MS)159,232155,587-3,645-2%$44,7851.29Minnesota (MN)273,257269,227-4,030-1%$53,4550.96Pennsylvania (PA)486,862482,633-4,229-1%$56,0510.82Alabama (AL)218,655214,260-4,395-2%$48,3051.06Colorado (CO)246,621241,559-5,062-2%$53,3170.94Nevada (NV)102,50396,908-5,595-5%$69,7260.82Oklahoma (OK)204,762198,556-6,206-3%$46,7011.15Maryland (MD)246,578240,239-6,339-3%$66,4080.89Indiana (IN)282,050275,575-6,475-2%$49,9720.97Washington (WA)324,927318,156-6,771-2%$59,7681.02Illinois (IL)619,915610,721-9,194-1%$58,7181.02Arizona (AZ)276,461266,612-9,849-4%$55,7791.04New Jersey (NJ)417,887407,687-10,200-2%$69,1211.02Georgia (GA)427,789416,352-11,437-3%$49,1180.98Ohio (OH)541,448528,959-12,489-2%$53,4401.01Florida (FL)760,981747,967-13,014-2%$59,9520.94Virginia (VA)378,601364,318-14,283-4%$55,6320.96Michigan (MI)407,693391,836-15,857-4%$57,5410.98New York (NY)1,091,9701,056,616-35,354-3%$71,6401.21California (CA)1,748,1221,710,789-37,333-2%$71,4781.05Total14,399,61514,157,846-241,769-2%$57,449