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Government Employment in Montana 1960 vs. 2015


Is there currently more government employment in Montana than in 1960?

Short Answer:

Government employment has grown in the number of people employed, but has not grown substantially in terms of percentage of total employment.  The growth has primarily been at the local government level, which includes schools, counties, tribal, and city governments.

Long Answer:

There have been changes in the way we measure employment that make it difficult to directly compare today’s government employment to that of 1960. However, we can make reasonable estimates based on existing data.

In 1960, government employment was divided into two main industries: Public Education and Public Administration. Today, we break down employment by the level of government, classifying jobs as either Federal, State, or Local Government. The 1960 designation “Public Education” would correspond more closely to “Local Government” today, because public education employment occurs primarily at the local level. The best estimate of “State Government” employment in 1960 would be the “Public Administration” industry. The earliest estimate of Federal Government employment is in 1969, by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Government Employment in Montana, 1960 and 2015

Source: 2015 data comes from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. 1960 data comes from the US Census Bureau census.gov/prod/www/decennial.html

*Bureau of Economic Analysis 1969 estimate, excludes military.

Government employment in any state tends to grow at the same rate as the population. As the table above shows, the same is true in Montana. While the number of people employed in government increased over time, the percentage of employment in government has remained relatively constant. In 1960, state government accounted for about 5.4% of total employment in Montana. In 2015, state employment still comprised about 5.2% of total employment. Local government, including schools, counties, tribal, and city governments, makes up about 10% of Montana’s employment today. In 1960, the best estimate of local government employment suggested it was only 5.4% of total employment. Government employment growth at the local level may have occurred over the last 55 years, however differences in data sources make it hard to tell for certain.

By 1969, the Bureau of Economic analysis estimates total government, including federal and military employment, accounted for 20.5% of Montana’s employment. In 2015, total government accounted for 18.4% of Montana’s total employment. The available data sources suggest that government employment has kept pace with population growth and remained relatively constant as a percentage of total employment over the last 46 years.

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