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Federal, State, and Local Governments
Government Finance and Employment Classification Manual
Chapter 5 - Public Employment and Payroll Statistics
 
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Contents and Abstract:

5.1 Background

5.2 Basic Concepts and Definitions
5.21 Employees/Employment
5.22 Full-Time vs Part-Time Employees
5.23 Payrolls
5.24 Hours Worked by Part-Time Workers

5.3 Derived Employment Statistics
5.31 Full-Time Equivalent Employment
5.32 October 1986 Revision to Full-Time Equivalent Calculation Method
5.33 Average March Earnings

5.4 Functional Categories Unique to Employment Survey

5.5 Special Topics During Census of Governments

Chart:

5-A Functional Categories Applicable to Employment Data

Governments play an important part in the national economy, not the least of which is their role as employers. Federal, state and local government employees accounted for 14.5 percent of the total civilian labor force in 1999.

The purpose of the employment survey is to measure the number of public employees and their payrolls at a point in time (i.e., March) according to a detailed cross-classification by function and type of employee (full- or part-time). During previous employment survey cycles, the Bureau has collected some additional data on topics such as labor management relations and the costs of employee benefits.

Note that beginning with the 1997 survey, the reference period was modified from October to March (See Note 1).

5.1 Background

As described in Chapter Two, the Census Bureau first collected data on state and local government employment and payrolls in 1940. The Department of Labor now conducts monthly surveys of public employment; the Bureau continues to compile detailed statistics on an annual basis.

The employment survey shares many of the same concepts as the finance survey: the individual government as its focus; the broad definition of a government to include dependent agencies; and the functional categories. Thus, many of the sections elsewhere in this manual apply equally to employment data.

5.2 Basic Concepts and Definitions

Employment and payroll data pertain to the month of March. At present, data are collected for the one pay period that includes March 12 (regardless of the period's length). As described in Section 5.23, payroll data are converted to a monthly figure for publication purposes.

Discussed below are the basic concepts and definitions that apply only to employment statistics.

5.21 Employees/Employment

Employment refers to all persons gainfully employed by and performing services for a government. Employees include all persons paid for personal services performed from all sources of funds, including persons paid from Federally-funded programs, paid elected officials, persons in a paid leave status, and persons paid on a per meeting, annual, semiannual, or quarterly basis.

Excluded from employment statistics are employees on unpaid leave, unpaid officials, pensioners, persons whose work is performed on a fee basis, and contractors and their employees.

5.22 Full-Time vs Part-Time Employees

The classification of an employee as full- or part-time is determined by the standard used by the reporting government itself; that is:

Full-time employees are defined to include those persons whose hours of work represent full-time employment in their employer government. Included are full-time temporary or seasonal employees who are working the number of hours that represent full-time employment.
Part-time employees are those persons who work less than the standard number of hours for full-time work in their employer government. Excluded are full-time temporary or seasonal employees who are working the number of hours that represent full-time employment.

5.23 Payrolls

Payroll amounts are gross payrolls for the pay period that includes March 12. Gross payrolls includes all salaries, wages, fees, overtime, premium and night differentials, commissions, bonuses, or awards paid to employees before withholdings for taxes,insurance, etc. It excludes employer share of fringe benefits like retirement, Social Security, health and life insurance, and the value of living quarters and subsistence allowances furnished to employees.

Data collected for the one pay period that includes March 12 are converted to monthly figures using the following conversion factors:

 
Frequency of Pay Period Conversion Factor
Weekly 4.429
Biweekly 2.214
Twice a month 2.000
Monthly 1.000
 

5.24 Hours Worked by Part-Time Workers

First collected during the October 1986 survey, these data represent the number of hours worked by part-time employees during the pay period. Note that these data are not collected for publication but rather are used to calculate full-time equivalent employment data (see section 5.31).

5.3 Derived Employment Statistics

From the employment data collected from state and local governments, the Census Bureau computes certain derived statistics, as follows:

5.31 Full-Time Equivalent Employment

Full-time equivalent employment is a derived statistic that provides an estimate of a government's total full-time employment by converting part-time employees to a full-time amount. To the actual number of full-time employees reported is added the number of employees that could have been employed if the reported number of hours worked by part-time employees had been worked by full- time employees instead.

These statistics are computed for each functional category of a government using the following formula:

    Part-Time Hours Paid
Full-Time Employees + ------------------------------
    Standard Number of Hours for Full-Time Employees in that Government

5.32 October 1986 Revision to Full-Time Equivalent Calculation Method

The method for calculating full-time equivalent employment based on part-time hours worked has been in use since the 1986 employment survey. Prior to the 1985 survey, the Bureau used a different method, one based on payrolls. (For the October 1985 employment survey no full-time equivalent employment data were calculated.)

This payroll method computed full-time equivalent employment for each functional category of a government using the following formula:

    Full-Time Payrolls
Full-Time Employees + ------------------------------
    Full-Time Payrolls + Part-Time Payrolls
This payroll-based method was discontinued when "hours of work" data became more generally available as a result of changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

5.33 Average March Earnings

Average March earnings is a derived statistic representing the average monthly payroll per full-time employee. This statistic is computed for each functional category of a government using the following formula:

Full-Time Employee March Payrolls
-----------------------------------------------
Number of Full-Time Employees
Average earnings data may not convert to accurate annual earning rates because of overtime, unusual situations (e.g., special events, natural disasters), and such factors as employees who are paid only during 9 or 10 months of the year (especially in education and natural resources).

Other factors affecting average March earnings rates include (1) the proportion of highly trained or skilled personnel, (2) the concentration of employees in metropolitan or urban areas where the cost-of-living is higher, and (3) the exclusion of housing, meals, or other "in kind" compensation which may be provided to employees (especially for hospitals).

5.4 Functional Categories Unique to Employment Survey

The employment survey uses certain functional categories, or more accurately sub-categories, that are not found in the finance survey. They are defined below:

Higher Education,

  • Instructional Employees--Includes personnel engaged in teaching and related academic research as well as teachers at hospitals and agricultural experiment stations and farms.

  • Other Higher Education Employees--Includes all noninstructional employees. Noninstructional employees at hospitals and outpatient clinics operated by higher education institutions and serving the general public are excluded from Higher Education and reported under the Hospitals (code 36) or Health (code 32) function, respectively. Likewise, agricultural extension services employees and noninstructional employees at agricultural experiment stations and farms are excluded from Higher Education and reported under the Other Natural Resources (code 59) function.
Elementary and Secondary Education,
  • School Instructional Employees--Includes not only classroom teachers, but also principals, supervisors of instruction, teacher aides, substitute teachers, school librarians, library aides, and guidance personnel.
All Other School System Employees,
  • Includes administrative and clerical personnel; plant operation, maintenance, and custodial personnel; cafeteria, bus transportation, health, recreation, student, and all other employees. Exclude contractors and employees of contractors. Report as part-time all student employees and other employees whose hours of work are less than standard full-time work hours.
Police Protection,
  • Police Officers--Includes personnel with the power of arrest ("sworn" officers).

  • Other Police Protection Employees
Fire Protection,
  • Firefighters--Includes personnel trained and/or engaged in fire suppression and prevention.

  • Other Fire Protection Employees

5.5 Special Topics During Census of Governments

During the quinquennial census of governments, the Bureau frequently collects additional information about public employment.

Data on Labor Management Relations provide statistics on state and local employees who belong to employee organizations, governments with a labor relations policy, contractual agreements between governments and employee bargaining units, employees covered by contractual agreements, and employee bargaining units.

Data on Government Costs for Employee Benefits provide statistics on state and local government costs for providing selected benefits for their employees, such as Federal Social Security, retirement, unemployment compensation insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, hospital/medical insurance, uniform and equipment allowances, bonuses and cash awards, and other benefits. This report also contains information on the number of current state and local government employees covered by Federal Social Security.


  1. The reference period for measuring government employment was October from 1946-1956. In 1957, the reference period was changed to April. However from 1958-1995, the reference period returned to October. Effective with the 1997 Census of Governments, the reference period was changed from October of the calendar year to March of the calendar year. As a result, there was no annual survey of government employment covering the October 1996 period.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division
Created: November 16 2000
Last revised: October 31 2011