NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

19 U.S. Cities Have Proportionately Bigger Workforces than Bankrupted Detroit

July 30, 2013

Detroit declared bankruptcy due in no small part to $3 billion in unfunded public employee pensions owed to a sprawling city workforce that kept growing even as the city's population shriveled. But a Washington Examiner analysis finds that 19 major American cities have even bigger ratios of such workers to residents.

The Examiner used the Census Bureau's 2011 Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll to rank every U.S. city with a population of 200,000 or more. Some of those cities managed to get along fine with comparatively few municipal employees:

  • San Diego has 9,501 municipal employees for 1.3 million residents, or one for every 137 residents.
  • But others like San Francisco have a bureaucracy seven times as large, with one of every 28 of the city's 800,000 residents on the city payroll.
  • San Francisco's 28,660 workers, with an average salary of $91,000, come in a long tail of different job categories, including 2,000 health employees -- not including city hospitals --1,843 welfare workers, 2,872 judicial and corrections officers, 1,081 parks workers, and 1,171 in "other government administration."
  • San Francisco's 4,266 transit workers do not include Bay Area Rapid Transit employees presently striking for a 21 percent pay increase.
  • The city with the leanest government is Bakersfield, Calif., which has 1,410 employees for 348,000 residents, or one for every 246.
  • Bakersfield's population has quadrupled in the last 40 years, and its public employee workforce may have lagged behind.
  • The city is one of California's most conservative and the largest that employs the lowest sales tax allowed by state law.

Washington, D.C., ranks first in the nation, which is no surprise to residents who recall the dramatic growth of the municipal workforce in the 1980s under then-mayor Marion Barry. But D.C. also has the distinction of providing services that in many other places are often split among multiple levels of government, including state, local and county authorities.

Source: Luke Rosiak, "Exography: 19 U.S. Cities Have Proportionately Bigger Workforces than Bankrupted Detroit," Washington Examiner, July 22, 2013.


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