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, Washington has the twenty-first most productive state and local government workforce in the country.
As shown in Chart 1, for state and local government employment, Washington ranks above the national average with 18.6 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector—this is 13 percent above the national average of 16.4 and is the 14th highest ratio in the country.
As shown in Chart 2, for state and local government compensation, Washington ranks below average with government employees earning 8 percent more than those in the private sector—this is -37 percent below the national average of 13 percent and is the 21st lowest compensation ratio in the country.
As shown in Chart 3, for state and local wages and salaries, Washington employees earn -9 percent less than those in the private sector—this is the 19th 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.), Washington employees earn 95 percent more than those in the private sector—this is -18 percent lower than the national average of 117 percent and is the 26th 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 Washington.
The Washington counties with the highest local government employment ratios include: Garfield County (131.7), Pend Oreille County (85.7), and Ferry County (79.4). The Washington counties with the lowest local government employment ratios include: King County (8.3), Spokane County (11), and Snohomish County (12.2).
The Washington counties with the highest local government compensation ratios include: Douglas County (95 percent), Jefferson County (80 percent), and Island County (76 percent). The Washington counties with the lowest local government compensation ratios include: Whitman County (-1 percent), King County (2 percent), and Klickitat County (5 percent).
Overall, it is Washington’s low government compensation ratio, including both the wages and salaries ratio and benefits ratio, which is 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.