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.