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, Colorado has the third most productive state and local government workforce in the country.
As shown in Chart 1, for state and local government employment, Colorado ranks as just above average with 17.6 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector—7 percent above the national average of 16.4 and is the 22nd highest ratio in the country.
However, as shown in Chart 2, for state and local government compensation, Colorado ranks very low with government employees earning -6 percent less than those in the private sector—significantly below the national average of 13 percent and is the 3rd lowest compensation ratio in the country. The low compensation ratio more than offsets the Colorado’s above average employment ratio.
Both wages and salaries and benefits contribute to Colorado’s low government compensation ratio. As shown in Chart 3, for state and local wages and salaries, Colorado employees earn -13 percent less than those in the private sector—the 11th lowest wages and salaries ratio in the country and significantly below than the national average of -8 percent.
As shown in Chart 4, for state and local benefits, Colorado employees earn 29 percent more than those in the private sector—this is -75 percent lower than the national average of 117 percent and is the lowest benefit ratio in the country. Though the differential is highest for benefits, wages and salaries weigh more heavily since it constitute 78 percent of total compensation.
For more information on Colorado’s government workforce, please visit COST-Colorado Spending Transparency website.
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 Colorado.
The Colorado counties with the highest local government employment ratios include: Baca County (122), Kiowa County (98.4), and Costilla County (83.4). The counties with the lowest local government employment ratios include: Gilpin County (8.2), Denver County (8.7), and Arapahoe County (10.1).
The Colorado counties with the highest local government compensation ratios include: San Juan County (71 percent), Archuleta County (45 percent), and Grand County (41 percent). The counties with the lowest local government compensation ratios include: Crowley County (-37 percent), Rio Blanco (-31 percent), and Dolores County (-30 percent).
Overall, it is Colorado’s very low state and local compensation ratio, driven by both the low wages and salaries ratio and benefits ratio, that is the primary source of the good 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.