Conservatives who preach that Michigan needs to chop away at the state’s big government bureaucracy may be stunned to learn that Michigan ranks 49th among the states for its percentage of government workers.
According to 2016 Census data analyzed by MLive, about 10.3 percent of Michigan workers were employed by federal, state or local government, slightly more than the 10.1 percent on government payrolls in Pennsylvania.
Overall, Michigan’s workforce shapes up this way: 75 percent private sector, 10 percent public sector, 10 percent employed at nonprofit groups, and 5 percent self-employed.
MLive reports that Michigan ranks lower than the national average at each level of government as the percentages reflect the numerous cutbacks in employment by localities and the state since the early 2000s.
While the numbers defy the rhetoric coming from many elected officials about “bloated” government, economic factors are also at play.
Unfortunately, the payroll figures suggest further evidence of the lack of private-sector jobs Up North, in the area above Bay City/Midland. In a large swath of the state where conservative viewpoints would make workers more likely to shun government jobs, public sector employment ranks relatively high.
In fact, the Upper Peninsula, an increasingly Deep Red area, has all five of the top counties ranked by proportion of government workers, starting with Chippewa County at 28 percent in the public sector. With few jobs available, workers turn to employment in local government or at state prisons and parks.
In contrast, southeast Michigan, which encompasses the most liberal areas of the state, ranks among the highest in private-sector work. Kent County ranks at the top among the state’s 83 counties with 87.5 percent of workers employed by for-profit companies, followed closely by Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Monroe.
From a political standpoint, the five states with the highest percentage of government workers is a mixed bag: Alaska (25.6 percent), New Mexico (22.4), Maryland (21.5), Wyoming (20.1) and Hawaii (19.8).
In all, MLive found that Michigan had about 475,000 government workers in 2016. Almost 234,000 were employed by local governments, including K-12 schools and community colleges, libraries, police and fire departments, road crews and other types of local and county workers. About 173,000 work for the state in categories ranging from correctional facilities to universities. And about 67,000 are employed by the federal government in agencies such as the U.S. postal service and the federal court system.