Gallup Poll Shows Drop in Public Employment

By: - February 21, 2012 12:00 am

10 states with the highest percentage of government workers
10 states with the lowest percentage of government workers

Government employment is declining nationally as a percentage of total employment, according to new poll results from Gallup. This comes at a time when fear of “big government” is nearing an all-time high, the firm notes , with 64 percent of Americans saying that they fear “big government” more than “big business” or “big labor.”

Overall federal, state and local government employment declined by 1 percent between 2010 and 2011, with the drop in employment split evenly among the three levels.

States’ reliance on public sector employment varies significantly from one area to another. Almost a third of workers in Hawaii, Alaska and the District of Columbia are employed by the government, compared with only 11.8 percent of Pennsylvania workers.

The size of a state’s government workforce doesn’t correlate with its political leanings. Solidly Republican South Carolina, Mississippi and Wyoming were among the ten states with the highest percentage of government workers. On the other side of the spectrum, Democratic-leaning Vermont and Oregon were among those with the lowest percentage of government workers.

Terry Lefebvre runs a Vermont program for children with special health needs and has been a state employee for 40 years.  She wasn’t surprised by the Gallup results.

Lefebvre says the state budget has been “cut to ribbons” over the years, with many employees working longer hours for the same pay in order to make up the difference. “Now people are leaving state government because they’re burning out,” says Lefebvre, who spoke to Stateline as a private individual rather than in her capacity as a state employee. “They’ve been doing too many peoples’ jobs for too long.” 

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Melissa Maynard

Melissa Maynard oversees the Pew state fiscal health project’s Fiscal 50 online resource, which helps policymakers understand fiscal, economic, and demographic trends affecting their states by tracking tax revenue, reserves, employment rates, Medicaid spending, and other issues important to long-term fiscal health.