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19,165

September 22, 2010

The number of New Jersey “excess” public employees compared with the number of public workers in other states is at least 19,165, according to a recent study by two Columbia University professors who say they’ve created comparative models of the number and pay of workers in all 50 states.

John Huber, chair of Columbia’s political science department and Justin Phillips, an assistant professor in the department, prepared a report they say takes into account population, density, wealth, race, age and even political leanings of state residents. Indeed, depending on which of these factors are stressed in the models, the authors say New Jersey ranks third in the country in terms of “excess” employees, pegging the range as 12.3 percent to 18.2 percent of the state payroll. For the purposes of this study, excess is defined as the number of employees relative to other states.

New Jersey does not fare as poorly when it comes to the rate of pay of employees, although the professors claim New Jersey’s payroll is 4.9 percent to 7.1 percent in excess, when compared with other states. In this ranking, New Jersey came in 10th, behind Iowa, California, Rhode Island and Alabama.

Huber and Phillips did not provide the complete models, so it is impossible to determine exactly how their findings were derived. Nevertheless, they argue that when states contemplate balancing budgets with layoffs and pay reductions, “relative comparisons across states is a tractable way to think about which states are the strongest and weakest candidates for such cuts.”

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