Fast Facts

PUBLIC SERVANTS OR PRIVILEGED CLASS: How State Government Employees Are Paid Better Than Their Private Sector Counterparts

  • State governments pay on average 6.2 percent more per hour in wages and benefits, including pension benefits, than the private sector for the 22 major occupational categories that exist in both sectors.
  • The most excessive categories are “Architecture and Engineering,” “Education, Training and Library,” and “Protective Services,” which pay $11.53 or 40 percent more per hour than their private counterparts.
  • Nationally, no state government pays its employees on par or below what the private sector pays its employees, despite identical occupations in both sectors.
  • Texas has the largest difference in pay for state government employees versus the private sector; however, California has the highest weighted average hourly wages.
  • Utah and Montana compensate state government employees closest to the private sector, but still pay higher wages and benefits than those paid to private sector worker.
  • States with the most comparable compensation are: NH, RI, VT, SD and WY. States with the biggest gap between state and private sector wages and benefits are CA, NY, NC, OH and TX.
  • Unfunded liabilities for pensions for all state and local governments range from $2 to $4 trillion, or an average of between $40 billion and $80 billion.
  • An April 2009 article in USA Today revealed that, since 2002, public employees received $1.17 in new benefits for every $1-an-hour wage increase. By comparison, private sector employees received a mere 58 cents in additional benefits for every $1 increase.
  • Cities and counties facing bankruptcy include: Stockton, CA; Compton, CA; San Bernardino, CA; Mammoth Lakes, CA; Vallejo, CA; Harrisburg, PA; Camden, NJ; San Jose, CA; Central Falls, RI; Detroit, MI; Moffett, OK; Jefferson County, AL; Boise County, ID.
  • States facing bankruptcy include: CA, NY, TX, NJ, IL, MI, and NV.
  • In San Diego, the highest paid city employees are upper level firefighters, with an average salary of more than $180,000/year. Those with 30 years of service can retire at age 50 with 90% of salary.
  • Budget difficulties forced Camden, NJ, “the most dangerous city in the U.S.” to lay off 270 police officers.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had limited publicly available data. The CAGW/Dunham survey used BLS employment data to create a custom model using 22 equations and 3,564 variables to simultaneously calculate wages and benefits in all 50 states.
  • People should enter public service because they are more passionate about their work than the size of their paycheck.

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