February 26, 2015

State Government Employment

Contact us
To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.

A by-product of Florida’s fiscal conservatism is that the state has been holding the line on state government employment. Florida’s history of state government employment over two decades (table 4) shows that Florida had fewer employees in 2012 than it had in 1997. There was some increase in the first few years of the 21st century, peaking at 191,215 in 2006, but then government employment fell by more than 5 percent to 181,262 in 2012.

The state’s population was growing throughout that time, and the column second from the right shows a fairly steady decline in state employees as a percentage of the population. In the early 1990s the state employed 1.22 percent of Floridians, and even when state employment peaked in 2006, state employment as a percentage of the population had declined to 1.05 percent. By 2012, state employment had fallen to 0.95 percent of the population.

The downward trend is clearly apparent in figure 3, which graphs the numbers from table 4. State government employment as a percentage of Florida’s population has shown a consistent downward trend since the mid-1990s. Again, note that this is about the time that term limits took effect for Florida’s legislators. The same trends do not show up when looking at combined state and local government employment as a percentage of the population in figure 4. There is only a slight downward trend and considerably more variability in that series. Thus, while state government employment has fallen over those two decades, state plus local employment has been relatively constant. In keeping with the above discussion on term limits, it is worth remarking that most local government officials do not have term limits.

Florida is well below the national average in both state government employment and state and local government employment. In 2012 the national average was 1.38 percent of the population employed by state governments, compared to Florida’s 0.95 percent. Looking at state plus local government employment, the national average was 5.19 percent, compared with Florida’s 4.65 percent. While some might compare Florida’s level of state and local government employment with the national average to argue that Florida’s government is too small, there is no virtue in being average. The data presented here make it apparent that Florida’s political leadership has concluded, at the state level, anyway, that smaller government is preferable. There is a correlation between state expenditures and state employment, so readers should not be surprised, after looking at the budget numbers, to find state employment following a similar trend. A comparison of figures 2 and 3 shows these similar trends.