On Labor Force Dropouts and the Share of Women in Local & State Government

Published on Dec 8, 2011

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

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Catherine Rampell took a look at the drop in the labor force this week, noting that women made up the entire net loss (315,000). One theory Rampell posited, before her followup post, is perhaps some of the drop can be traced to state and local government employees who were let go. “After all,” she wrote, “state and local governments are shedding workers in large numbers, and most state and local workers are women.”

This made us wonder: What percentage of state and local government workers are women? And how severe have recent state and local government cutbacks been? Here are the answers, courtesy of EMSI’s 2011.4 employment data:

  • Women make up an estimated 60% of all state and local government workers in the US.

  • The states with the greatest share of female workers in these sectors are in the South: Georgia (63.7%), Arkansas (63.5%), and Louisiana (63.2%). New Hampshire is fourth, followed by South Carolina, Virginia, and Mississippi.

  • The states with the highest proportion of male workers in state and local government? Alaska (44.4% male, 55.6% female) and the Dakotas (43.4% and 43.2% male, respectively). Montana and Hawaii are next at 43% male, 57% female. We have the breakdown for every state in the table below.

  • State and local government have shed 2% of jobs overall since 2009. That amounts to just under 400,000 jobs across the nation. The most severe losses, aside from Washington, D.C., have come in New Jersey (a 5.4% drop) and Georgia (-5%), which happens to be the state with the highest share of female state and local government workers.

Note: EMSI’s state and local government employment figures include all government establishments, including public schools and colleges/universities.

MALE/FEMALE BREAKDOWN IN STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENTMaleFemaleState2011 Jobs% of Total2011 Jobs% of TotalOverall Job Change (09-11)Georgia (GA)205,35136.3%360,67263.7%-5.0%Arkansas (AR)72,25636.5%125,45263.5%1.2%Louisiana (LA)120,53836.8%207,36063.2%-2.9%New Hampshire (NH)30,31836.8%51,97863.2%-1.9%South Carolina (SC)110,86337.0%188,71563.0%-4.7%Virginia (VA)199,20037.2%336,18662.8%-0.6%Mississippi (MS)83,34737.5%138,72362.5%-2.1%North Carolina (NC)238,12137.6%394,50462.4%-2.4%Wyoming (WY)23,68938.1%38,50561.9%3.9%Texas (TX)620,77938.2%1,002,22761.8%1.7%Alabama (AL)122,20938.6%194,54861.4%-2.3%District of Columbia (DC)14,52238.9%22,85761.1%-6.9%Kentucky (KY)111,09239.2%172,52960.8%1.4%Kansas (KS)92,92239.5%142,30360.5%-1.8%Maryland (MD)135,99439.6%207,46360.4%-1.2%Minnesota (MN)142,01939.7%215,32860.3%-1.8%California (CA)865,76139.9%1,304,97660.1%-3.7%Connecticut (CT)92,02439.9%138,32760.1%-2.1%Indiana (IN)153,26040.1%229,25859.9%-4.4%Vermont (VT)18,27640.1%27,32559.9%-1.6%Nebraska (NE)58,33340.2%86,77859.8%-0.5%Oregon (OR)102,46440.3%151,80459.7%-0.8%Tennessee (TN)150,73040.3%223,59059.7%-1.3%Idaho (ID)42,41040.4%62,45959.6%-0.2%Iowa (IA)94,05740.4%138,89259.6%-2.0%Delaware (DE)23,23940.5%34,18359.5%0.1%Michigan (MI)228,03140.7%332,51159.3%-4.1%West Virginia (WV)51,04340.7%74,37159.3%0.0%Florida (FL)395,28441.0%568,19459.0%-1.2%Oklahoma (OK)118,12341.2%168,50758.8%-2.6%New Mexico (NM)67,87841.3%96,49258.7%-2.7%Maine (ME)35,64041.4%50,48358.6%-2.5%New Jersey (NJ)225,43041.5%317,94658.5%-5.4%Washington (WA)194,73541.5%274,77958.5%-1.6%Arizona (AZ)145,18041.6%203,42758.4%-3.5%Missouri (MO)159,69541.6%223,90958.4%-3.1%Wisconsin (WI)161,52741.6%226,42558.4%0.1%Colorado (CO)143,29341.8%199,68658.2%-0.4%Massachusetts (MA)158,15841.8%219,90758.2%-1.2%Rhode Island (RI)22,64041.9%31,40058.1%-3.2%Utah (UT)74,87241.9%103,98758.1%0.4%Illinois (IL)320,62342.0%441,89158.0%-2.1%Ohio (OH)297,57042.1%409,11057.9%-2.3%New York (NY)558,95442.7%748,61957.3%-2.3%Nevada (NV)57,11442.9%76,00657.1%-3.9%Pennsylvania (PA)287,45042.9%382,09957.1%-1.7%Hawaii (HI)38,50943.0%51,07857.0%-2.8%Montana (MT)31,45343.0%41,71557.0%-0.9%North Dakota (ND)27,41943.2%36,08656.8%2.6%South Dakota (SD)27,86443.4%36,31956.6%-0.1%Alaska (AK)27,96944.4%35,03855.6%-0.1%United States7,780,22740.3%11,546,92959.7%-2.0%Source: EMSI Complete Employment, 2011.4

The drop in the labor force, as Rampell noted, was overwhelmingly from those who were employed (not out of work and discouraged).

 … a majority of women who leave the labor force each month are usually coming directly from a job (perhaps because they’re retiring, going on maternity leave or are laid off and not seeking re-employment).

Although layoffs have been well-documented in local and state government, there’s another trend worth mentioning: many public sector employees are retiring early given the often-dismal prospects to keep their jobs long term. EMSI’s data shows an estimated 23% of all state and local government workers are aged 55 or older. So perhaps retirements are a bigger part of this equation than most think.

For more on this issue or the data presented in this post, email Josh Wright.

Illustration by Mark Beauchamp.