Number of government workers grows in Oklahoma

Monday, June 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ More than 259,000 Oklahomans work for the government, about 10,000 more than a decade ago, according to Census 2000 data.

But the state's overall work force has also grown and the percentage of the state's work force in public sector jobs has dropped to 17 percent from 18 percent.

Counties that have public colleges and universities, military installations and prisons showed the highest percentage of people working in government. Those workers include people in federal and state government, county and local governments, public education, civilian military jobs and tribal governments.

Payne County had the highest percentage of people _ 32 percent _ working for the government. The county is home to Oklahoma State University, which accounts for almost half the county's public service employees.

OSU employs 5,250 people, school spokesman Nestor Gonzales said. That's 15 percent of the county's total employed population.

``Stillwater's population and job growth seems to follow OSU,'' said Kent Metcalf, economic development director for the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce.

Other counties with colleges and universities had high percentages of workers on the public payroll. Cherokee County, home of Northeastern State University, has 28 percent of its workers in public service, while Latimer County has 30 percent. Latimer County is home to Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton.

In Cherokee County, public sector job growth has followed the city's private sector boom. Tahlequah's population grew by 39 percent between 1990 and 2000, partially because of several new industries. Cherokee County also is where the Cherokee Nation's government is based.

Elementary and secondary education and other school-related jobs were the top public sector employers in the state, census data show. Oklahoma school districts employed 81,734 people in 2000.

Comanche, Jackson and Pittsburg counties all had high percentages of their labor forces working for the government. Comanche County (26 percent) is home to Fort Sill; Jackson County (29 percent) has Altus Air Force Base; and Pittsburg County (26 percent) is home to the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and two large prisons.

The percentage of people working for the government in Oklahoma is on par with neighboring states. Government employs 15 percent of workers in Texas and Kansas and 17 percent of workers in Louisiana. Nearly one in four workers in New Mexico _ 23 percent _ works for the government.