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 sixteenth most productive state and local government workforce in the country.
On state and local government employment, Washington ranks above the national average with 19.45 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector which is 16 percent above the national average of 16.77 and is the 14th highest ratio in the country.
On state and local government compensation, Washington ranks below average with government employees earning 3.6 percent more than those in the private sector—significantly below the national average of 11.7 percent and is the 13th lowest compensation ratio in the country.
Both wages and salaries and benefits contribute to Washington’s low government compensation ratio. On state and local wages and salaries, Washington employees earn -11.7 percent less than those in the private sector—the 19th lowest wages and salaries ratio in the country and below than the national average of -8.8 percent.
On state and local benefits (pensions, health insurance, etc.), Washington employees earn 80.4 percent more than those in the private sector which is -30.1 percent lower than the national average of 115 percent and is the 17th lowest benefit ratio in the country.
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 metrics.
Note: Recent data updates include significant definitional changes, especially to benefits which are now based on an accrual basis as opposed to a cash-basis. The changes currently go back to 2000 so comparisons between pre- and post-2000 data must be used with caution.
J. Scott Moody has nearly 20 years experience 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 the American Conservative Union Foundation, Federalism In Action, Tax Foundation, Heritage Foundation, and The Maine Heritage Policy Center.