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, Tennessee has the seventeenth most productive state and local government workforce in the country.
As shown in Chart 1, for state and local government employment, Tennessee ranks below the national average with 15.6 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector—this is -5 percent below the national average of 16.4 and is the 12th lowest ratio in the country.
As shown in Chart 2, for state and local government compensation, Tennessee ranks below average with government employees earning 9 percent more than those in the private sector—this is -29 percent below the national average of 13 percent and is the 23rd lowest compensation ratio in the country.
As shown in Chart 3, for state and local wages and salaries, Tennessee employees earn -13 percent less than those in the private sector—this is the 9th 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.), Tennessee employees earn 122 percent more than those in the private sector—this is 4 percent above than the national average of 117 percent and is the 13th 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 Tennessee.
The Tennessee counties with the highest local government employment ratios include: Hancock County (101.3), Bledsoe County (94.3), and Lake County (61.6). The Tennessee counties with the lowest local government employment ratios include: Davidson County (5.8), Sumner County (7.5), and Knox County (7.9).
The Tennessee counties with the highest local government compensation ratios include: Sevier County (78 percent), Putnam County (44 percent), and Trousdale County (43 percent). The Tennessee counties with the lowest local government compensation ratios include: Moore County (-56 percent), Unicoi County (-51 percent), and Weakley County (-32 percent).
Overall, it is Tennessee’s low government employment ratio and wages and salaries ratio that are the primary source of 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.