Study: RI has highest level of private-sector jobs in the US

December 2nd, 2013 at 3:29 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Here’s a statistic that won’t surprise regular Nesi’s Notes readers but may surprise others.

A new study by the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows Rhode Island has the largest percentage of real private-sector jobs in the country: 85.7% of total employment. The study defines “true” private-sector jobs as those that aren’t financed by the federal government, whether the individual is employed directly or through a contractor.

“Direct government employment fails to capture the full impact of government spending on state labor markets,” the authors write. “Using federal contract data obtained from, we estimated the percentage of private sector jobs actually financed by federal contract dollars in each state.”

Here’s the map:


Just 1.4% of private-sector jobs in Rhode Island are funded by federal contracts, compared with 5% in Connecticut and 3.5% in Massachusetts. The share ranges from 10.7% in Virgina to 0.7% in Oregon.

Another Mercatus map includes the depressing statistic that Rhode Island lost 5.4% of its real private-sector jobs between 2007 and 2012, one of the larger decreases in the country:


This is just the latest evidence that Rhode Island’s active public payroll isn’t as enormous as some seem to think. A recent New York Times analysis found Rhode Island has the second-fewest government workers among the 50 states after moving aggressively to cut jobs during the recession. Government employment in Rhode Island as a share of the population is now at the lowest level since at least 1990.

But government employment and government spending aren’t always the same thing. These analyses don’t show the size of Rhode Island’s retired public payroll (pensioners) or the level of spending by the public sector. Much of the state’s $2 billion in Medicaid spending, for example, doesn’t employ state workers directly.

• Related: RI has 2nd-lowest level of government employment in the US (Oct. 7)

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14 Responses to “Study: RI has highest level of private-sector jobs in the US”

  1. Dale says:

    So are we getting all the federal taxation and regulations but not our share of the bacon?

  2. Mr.Fish says:

    um, yeah. It is all going to the “takers” in the southern Red states….

    Don’t you get how this works? They push for far right wing agenda so they can have left wing socialism for themselves. We get the bill for their Reagan idolatry.

  3. Tom Letourneau says:

    This really surprises me as a number of years back it was learned that NH, with more then 4-times the land area as Rogues Island, had 1/2 as many State Workers?

    In looking at the percentages in this survey, YES, RI looks the better of most.

    That said I would like to see a much more defined breakdown of where (State, Local, Federal) these Public Workers are!

  4. lost in ri says:

    this seems extremely odd.

    you might want to check what the average private sector job pays in ri as opposed to the rest of the states.

    1. drender says:

      It only seems “odd” because it’s not what you think you know, or want to believe.

  5. Bri says:

    “The study defines “true” private-sector jobs as those that aren’t financed by the federal government [...]”

    Does that make state and municipal government jobs ‘private-sector’? THat would explain these results.


  6. JJ says:

    How many of these private sector employees are actually under contract to the state. EOHHS is full of private contractor employees doing work formerly done by state workers.

  7. charles r says:

    It is amazing what they will come up with to paint a positive picture. I think what they are trying to say is that anybody employed by the state and local communities are included in the private sector, A bit misleading I would think.

    1. gretan says:

      Think again. Not at all what they are “trying to say”….

  8. David C says:

    @Ted, how can it be that federally contracted jobs are only 1.4% of jobs in RI? You have about 3000 private sector federal contract funded jobs at EB in Quonset point alone, to say nothing of the jobs at Raytheon or the other contractors that work at or around the Newport base.

    The actual report didn’t have any substantiating data to indicate how they made the counts that I could find.

  9. [...] has to find $1.3 million to repay bad PEDP loans … a new study finds Rhode Island has the highest percentage of real private-sector jobs in the nation … and why it may be time for Rhode Island to take a deep breath about those Tax [...]

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