There are two major elements to look at when examining a state’s government workforce—the number of employees and the level of their pay. Each element is measured relative to the national average and summed together to obtain an overall measure of workforce productivity. By this metric, California has the fourth least productive state and local government workforce in the country.
As shown in Chart 1, for state and local government employment, California has 15.8 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector—this is -4 percent below the national average of 16.4 and is the 37th highest ratio in the country.
However, as shown in Chart 2, for state and local government compensation, California ranks very poorly with government employees earning 31 percent more than those in the private sector—this is 146 percent higher than the national average of 13 percent and is the 4th highest compensation ratio in the country. The high compensation ratio more than offsets California’s lower than average employment ratio.
As shown in Chart 3, for state and local wages and salaries, California’s employees earn 1 percent more than those in the private sector—the 10th highest wages and salaries ratio in the country and higher than the national average of -8 percent.
As shown in Chart 4, for state and local benefits, California employees earn 192 percent more than those in the private sector—a whopping 65 percent higher than the national average of 117 percent and is the 3rd highest benefit ratio in the country. Though the differential is highest for benefits, wages and salaries weigh more heavily since it constitutes 65 percent of total compensation.
Of course, efficiency for local government is more usefully measured on a more local scale. As such, we have also calculated the employment and compensations ratios of local government workers for every county in California.
The California counties with the highest local government employment ratios include: Sierra County (100), Modoc County (65.4), and Trinity County (60.4). The California counties with the lowest local government employment ratios include: San Mateo County (7.6), Santa Clara County (7.6), and Orange County (7.8).
The California counties with the highest local government compensation ratios include: Mono County (144 percent), Imperial County (118 percent), and Calaveras County (110 percent). The California counties with the lowest local government compensation ratios include: San Mateo County (-19 percent), Santa Clara (-13 percent), and Yolo County (-8 percent).
Overall, it is California’s very high state and local compensation ratio, driven by both the high wages and salaries ratio and benefits ratio, that is the primary source of the poor government workforce metrics.
J. Scott Moody has over 18 years as a public policy economist with a specialty in tax policy and has over 180 publications. He has worked for numerous national and state-based think tanks such as Federalism In Action, Tax Foundation, Heritage Foundation, and The Maine Heritage Policy Center.