Fudging the Bureaucrat Count, Again

It’s been a year since Errors of Enchantment noted the “dubious approach” the Legislative Finance Committee used to “measure” employees on the Land of Enchantment’s payroll.

Well, they’ve done it again.

In its latest newsletter, the LFC claims that the “number of state employees has declined over the past decade.” The chart above — which doesn’t set the vertical axis starting at 0, as it should — shows that the “Baseline FTE Headcount” dropped from 17,983 to 16,895 between FY 2014 and 2018.

As it did last year, the LFC left out the number of people employed by New Mexico’s colleges and universities. Add them, and the total number of people on the state’s payroll more than doubles.

But the proper way to gauge nonfederal “public servants” is to tally state and local employees. With Santa Fe mandating that villages, towns, cities, school districts, and counties provide more “services,” and local-government entities always lobbying the legislature for more revenue, it’s best to combine both public sectors.

Using the right measurement, one finds that the “labor productivity” of New Mexico government has been less-than-stellar since the arrival of the Great Recession. The chart below shows how little has been accomplished. The peak number of FTEs came in 2007. Since then, the number of positions has fallen by just 5.7 percent — not impressive, given the state’s stagnant population and the increasing availability of technology that enhances per-worker output. In FY 2016, the overall FTE count was the highest it’s been since FY 2011.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s data lag a bit, so it will be important to monitor the figures it releases for FY 2017 and FY 2018. But there is no doubt that government in the Land of Enchantment still has an opportunity to undertake a badly needed right-sizing of its personnel.

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3 Replies to “Fudging the Bureaucrat Count, Again”

    1. While the federal government does a decent job of tracking its contractors’ employees, states don’t. I would say that in more than two and a half years of scrutinizing New Mexico public policy, I haven’t observed much outsourcing/competitive contracting. Prisons are one exception — about 50 percent of inmates are housed at private facilities, and I believe 10 of the 11 state-run penal institutions contract out healthcare services. Our organization would like to see more examples, of course, since well-managed outsourcing (detailed contracts written, administrative monitoring strong, legislative oversight constant) saves taxpayer dollars.

      Regardless of one’s views on the issue, though, taxpayers deserve comprehensive information on state personnel — numbers and costs. It’s unfortunate that the LFC doesn’t appear to want to provide it.

  1. What a great research project for someone with time, energy, interest, and understanding.

    I await a count of the FTE private sector jobs created as a result of the egregious Organ Mountains Desert Peaks land grab of 775 square miles for a national monument. Heinrich lauds the job growth. Based on what?

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