Wisconsin’s Public Sector Is Getting Smaller

Wisconsin Ranks 35th Among States In Size Of Public Workforce, Report Finds

Jimmy Emerson,DVM (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Wisconsin’s government workforce is shrinking over time. A new study of U.S. Census data from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project found the number of state and local government employees was equivalent to 286,000 full-time positions in 2015.

That puts Wisconsin 35th among states in the number of public employees per 1,000 residents, with 49.6. The national average is 50.7 public workers for every 1,000 residents.

Tamarine Cornelius, an analyst with the Wisconsin Budget Project, said Wisconsin’s state and local government workforce has been growing smaller for years.

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“In any given year the number of public employees in Wisconsin fluctuates, but the general trend is down,” Cornelius said. “We are down about 7 percent in the number of public employees that we have since the turn of the century.”

Wisconsin also ranks 25th among states in the size of public payrolls.

“One (reason) is because we have fewer government employees than most other states,” Cornelius said. “The other reason is that public employees in Wisconsin earn less than the national average. The payroll per employee in Wisconsin is about 4 percent below the national average.”

Among the factors contributing to a smaller public sector: reduced state aid to towns and state limits on property taxes.

About 1 out of every 8 jobs in Wisconsin is part of state or local government.

Nearly three-fourths of those employees work at the local level, with 60 percent of the public sector based in education.

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