Distorting public employee pay – Just another day at the OC Register

Sometimes the OC Register’s Watchdog reporter Teri Sforza get’s it right. But when it comes to analyzing government statistics I think she has allowed the Register Editorial Board’s prism of anti-government employee rhetoric to blind her. Such is the case with Sforza’s piece Tuesday titled Public pay rises despite recession. Teri writes:

As the Bell scandal and the debate over government transparency rages, we ask you to consider these revealing numbers from our friends at the U.S. Census Bureau:

In the five years between 2002 and 2007, the number of full-time equivalent employees in all state and local governments in California grew just three percent, while the cost of paying those folks grew 26 percent.

Sforza doesn’t cite where she actually came up with the numbers she reported, but here is what I found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website here. Nationally between 1st Qtr. 2002 and 1st Qtr. 2007 wages and salaries for all industry groups rose 14.99%. Taken separately, wages and salaries for state and local government workers rose 15.14%. That is a difference of 0.15%.

In examining the more narrow time period of 4th Qtr. 2007 to 4th Qtr. 2009 wages and salaries for all industry groups increased by 4.21% and for state and local government workers by 5.14%. This is a difference of only 0.93%.

Teri only gave you a percentage increase in overall costs for state and local workers and offered no comparison to overall wage and salary increases. The simple fact is that wage and salary increases for state and local workers are in line with the comparable increases that all workers have received. It really is amazing what leaving out a little information does to distort ones perception of reality.

  6 comments for “Distorting public employee pay – Just another day at the OC Register

  1. Cook
    September 1, 2010 at 9:32 am

    “distort ones perception of reality”

    Maybe the title should have been different .

    Public pay rises despite recession

    (THE COST) Public pay rises despite recession.

    Would have been a more accurate title.

    Because it wasn’t comparing the falling pay and employment of the private sector to the still increasing pay and employment of the public sector.

    The article described a small increase in the number of public sector employment coupled with a large increase in costs for the same.

    • September 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm

      Large increase? For the sake of fairness let’s take the 3% rise in number of public sector employees off the top. That puts us at 23% over 5 years, all before the economy collapsed. That puts an average salary increase annually of 4.6%. That is in no way out of line with the economy and average pay increases across all sectors. The data used is misleading and offers no comparison to private sector.

  2. September 1, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    OC Watchdog Reporter is giving California stats.
    You’re giving National stats.

    California politicians have their private reality.

    • September 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm

      Okay, but she is not providing anything to compare it to. A number pulled out of context paints a distorted picture. 26% seems like a big number except when you divide it by 5. Then the percentage isn’t so big.

  3. teri sforza
    September 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Chris – If you click on the “US Census Bureau” in my story, you’ll go to the exact site where I pulled the numbers from.

    And I suppose I should take it as being on the right track that the folks here say I’m a right-winger and the right-wingers think I’m a liberal….

    • September 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks for clarifying where your figures came from Teri. I do not disput their accuracy. I just object to throwing statistics around our of context. Whil it may be true to say that the top 100 contributors to the GOP are large corporarions or multi-billionairs and millionaires, to not then follow with the fact that the top 100 contributor to the Democrats fit the same economic profile. Is a bit misleading.

      It isn’t fair, or right to throw out figures about a single population for the purpose of promoting outrage against that one group. This is particularly true when by comparing like figrese, there is little disparity, if any at all.

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