While reading the comments to Scott Mackay’s recent RI-NPR piece dismissing the latest CNBC-negative-ranking-of-RI stories, I came across a reference to recent Pew data (using 2012 numbers) that showed that Rhode Island state employees earned more than private sector employees in the state. Well, that’s nothing new, but I thought I’d take a look at the data. It’s worse than I thought.
Pew’s context-adding (and entirely correct) caveat regarding the data states:
State workers are a large and diverse group. Some build roads, while others help protect children from abuse and neglect. Some inspect restaurants, while others collect taxes.The average state employee is better educated than the average private sector employee, an important factor to consider when looking at salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment & Wages. Still, the newly released 2012 data provide an interesting glimpse at how salaries for both public and private sector workers are recovering from the recession. State employee salaries are growing at dramatically different speeds, in comparison to both their peers in other states and private sector workers in their own states.
Interesting, indeed. Rhode Island “leads” the six New England states in salary differential between Private and Public sector workers.
On average, Rhode Island public employees make close to $18,000 (almost 40%) more than the average private sector worker.
That is significantly larger than the New England average of around $4,000 (or 10%) and the National average, which is about the same.
|STATE||Pvt Sal||Pub Sal||$ Diff||% Pub/Pvt|
Yes, but that’s New England, where things cost more, you might say. Correct, so let’s expand the comparison to the Northeast.
Rhode Island public workers make less than their New Jersey counterparts. But the differential between private and public employees is still much larger. And the regional average differential in the Northeast is actually lower than just New England (around $2,500 and 6%).
Well, surely expanding this out to a national comparison will make things look better, right? Actually, yes. If not being “1st” is acceptable. You see, Rhode Island is actually the state with the 2nd largest Private vs. Public employee salary differential. The “winner” is Iowa (which is interesting; and makes me wonder if there is a connection between the progressive tradition in that state and their ranking here). Here are the “Top Ten”:
I even thought I’d look at states that suffer from the same economies-of-scale deficiencies as Rhode Island. Basically, if they had 1 million (give or take a few hundred thousand) residents.
Here, the average differential is around $5,000 and 13%. Not really any better.
Overall, in 2012, the average Rhode Island public employee salary of $62,201 ranks as fourth overall in the U.S. (behind New Jersey, California and Illinois). Further, by every comparative measure, Rhode Island is a national leader in public employee salary compensation, particularly as compared to its private sector employed residents. Thus, it can be said that Rhode Island’s most attractive and successful business is government employment. And business is good.