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, Oklahoma has the ninth most productive state and local government workforce in the country.
As shown in Chart 1, for state and local government employment, Oklahoma ranks significantly above the national average with 22 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector which is 34 percent above the national average of 16.4 and is the 5th highest ratio in the country.
However, as shown in Chart 2, for state and local government compensation, Oklahoma ranks very low with government employees earning -3 percent less than those in the private sector—this is below the national average of 13 percent and is the 6th lowest compensation ratio in the country.
Both wages and salaries and benefits contribute to Oklahoma’s low government compensation ratio. As shown in Chart 3, for state and local wages and salaries, Oklahoma employees earn -13 percent less than those in the private sector—this is the 10th lowest wages and salaries ratio in the country and below than the national average of -8 percent.
As shown in Chart 4, for state and local benefits (pensions, health insurance, etc.), Oklahoma employees earn 45 percent more than those in the private sector which is a whopping -62 percent lower than the national average of 117 percent and is the 5th lowest benefit ratio in the country.
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 Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma counties with the highest local government employment ratios include: Cotton County (146.8), Love County (137.9), and Cherokee County (91.5). The Oklahoma counties with the lowest local government employment ratios include: Oklahoma County (7.2), Tulsa County (7.9), and Beckham County (7.9).
The Oklahoma counties with the highest local government compensation ratios include: Cherokee County (53 percent), Love County (45 percent), and Jackson County (41 percent). The Oklahoma counties with the lowest local government compensation ratios include: Grant County (-34 percent), Alfalfa (-33 percent), and Dewey County (-31 percent).
Note: Oklahoma has a significant Indian population and they run many businesses, especially casinos. Since most of these businesses are tribally owned, they are counted as local government employees in this data.
Overall, Oklahoma’s government workforce has a duel personality with a very high employment ratio, but also a very low compensation ratio—thanks to the low wages and salaries and benefits ratio. Fortunately, the low compensation ratio carries more weight resulting in the good government workforce metric.
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.