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, Wisconsin has the twelfth least productive state and local government workforce in the country.
As shown in Chart 1, for state and local government employment, Wisconsin has 16 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector—this is -2 percent below the national average of 16.4 and is the 15th lowest ratio in the country.
As shown in Chart 2, for state and local government compensation, Wisconsin’s government employees earn 20 percent more than those in the private sector—this is 57 percent higher than the national average of 13 percent and is the 11th highest compensation ratio in the country.
As shown in Chart 3, for state and local wages and salaries, Wisconsin’s government employees earn -7 percent less than those in the private sector—this is the 23rd 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 (pensions, health insurance, etc.), Wisconsin’s employees earn 137 percent more than those in the private sector—this is 17 percent higher than the national average of 117 percent and is the 8th highest 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 Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin counties with the highest local government employment ratios include: Forest County (150.1), Jackson County (81.1), and Florence County (50). The Wisconsin counties with the lowest local government employment ratios include: Waukesha County (6.8), Winnebago County (8.1), and Eau Claire County (8.7).
The Wisconsin counties with the highest local government compensation ratios include: Iron County (86 percent), Vilas County (59 percent), and Oneida County (50 percent). The Wisconsin counties with the lowest local government compensation ratios include: Jackson County (-38 percent), Kewaunee County (-11 percent), and Lincoln County (-10 percent).
Overall, it is Wisconsin’s poor benefits ratio (the 8th highest in the country) that is the primary source of the poor government workforce metric. Fortunately, this is partially offset by lower-than-average government employment ratio (the 15th lowest in the country).
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.