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Public-sector jobs here top U.S. average, study says But ratio lags state's as a whole

The Buffalo Niagara region is a little more reliant on public-sector jobs than the rest of the nation, but not quite as dependent as New York State as a whole, a new report on the area's public employment shows.

Public-sector jobs -- such as teachers, firefighters and municipal employees -- accounted for 16.8 percent of the employment in Erie and Niagara counties in 2005, compared to 16.2 percent for the nation, and 17.3 percent across New York State, according to a policy brief released this week by the University at Buffalo's Regional Institute.

"The Public Sector in Western New York" is the sixth in a series of policy briefs issued by the Regional Institute -- formerly known as the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth -- to provide some data and analysis to regional issues.

"Public employment is a provocative topic for this region. It raises issues regarding the desired levels of a variety of services and costs for providing those services," said Kathryn A. Foster, institute director. "These data provide an objective basis on which to address such issues."

The institute relied on the most recent data from an employment survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor. The policy brief, authored by institute analyst Peter A. Lombardi, showed:

* The percentage of public jobs in the Buffalo region is more than in Rust Belt areas, like Cleveland, where public jobs represent 13.1 percent, and Pittsburgh, where it's 11.1 percent.

However, the share of public jobs is smaller in this area than in the upstate regions of Binghamton, 21.7 percent, or Syracuse, 17.9 percent.

* Driven by losses in manufacturing, private-sector jobs in the Buffalo region fell 2.7 percent between 2000 and 2005, while public-sector employment grew by 1.1 percent, led largely by an increase in workers at state colleges and prisons.

* Of the 92,000 public employees in Erie and Niagara county, more than 36 percent worked for local schools. Twenty-eight percent worked for local governments, while the remaining were 22,300 state employees and 10,400 federal workers.

* UB was the largest public-sector employer in Erie County with 8,600 employees, followed by Erie County government, with 7,200; Buffalo city schools, 5,200; and the City of Buffalo, 2,500.

This policy brief, and others, is available online at


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