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 twentieth least productive state and local government workforce in the country.
On state and local government employment, Wisconsin has 16.16 employees for every 100 employees in the private sector which is -3.7 percent below the national average of 16.77 and is the 14th lowest ratio in the country.
On state and local government compensation, Wisconsin’s government employees earn 14.3 percent more than those in the private sector which is 22.8 percent higher than the national average of 11.7 percent and is the 16th highest compensation ratio in the country.
On state and local wages and salaries, Wisconsin’s government employees earn -7.6 percent less than those in the private sector—the 27th highest wages and salaries ratio in the country and higher than the national average of -8.8 percent.
On state and local benefits (pensions, health insurance, etc.), Wisconsin’s employees earn 107.9 percent more than those in the private sector which is -6.2 percent lower than the national average of 115 percent and is the 14th highest benefit ratio in the country.
Overall, it is Wisconsin’s poor benefits ratio (the 14th highest in the country) that is the primary source of the poor government workforce metrics. Fortunately, much of that is offset by lower-than-average government employment ratio (the 14th lowest in the country).
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 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.