NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 11, 2009

Even as millions of private-sector jobs have disappeared in the past year, government hiring continues to expand across the country.  The United States shed 5.5 million private-sector jobs over the 12 months beginning in May 2008, but taxpayers were required to support 116,000 more federal workers than a year ago.  State government added 21,000 jobs nationwide, and local governments added 3,000 jobs.

North and South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota led the way in inefficient government, with the lowest number of residents per unit of general-purpose government, says Paul Soutar, an investigative reporter with the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy.

Consider the state of Kansas:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, Kansas has 204 state government employees for each 10,000 residents, almost exactly at the national median of 205.5.
  • But the state had 674 local government employees per 10,000 residents, third-highest in the nation. The median is 493.5.
  • Local government employment in Kansas is also growing faster than at the state level -- state employment increased 3.5 percent from 2003 to 2008, but local government employment increased 6.9 percent; state government employment declined by 500 jobs over the 12 months ending May 2009, but local governments added 2,900 jobs during that period.
  • The state also lost 41,600 jobs (not seasonally adjusted) between May 2008 and May 2009.

While government efficiency may be a challenge for large rural states, it's not an insurmountable one, says Soutar.  Utah is very close to Kansas in terms of population and area, with 2,645,330 residents and 82,144 square miles, but has 9,761 residents per general-purpose government.

The difference is not a matter of geography or population but instead the number of governments.  Kansas has 2,084, compared with 244 in Idaho and 271 in Utah.

  • In 2006, Greeley County, Kansas had 1,331 residents, and 205 of them worked in government or government services.  
  • In 2007, voters chose to consolidate county and Tribune city government.  
  • In 1997 voters approved consolidating the city-county government of Wyandotte County with Kansas City, Kansas.

Source: Paul Soutar, "Government Keeps on Hiring, Adding to Private-Sector Burden," Heartland Institute, September 2009.


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