Oakland employment per capita, 1995 and 2005

If you haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend reading dto510′s take on Dellums’s “mistakes were made” press conference yesterday.

The whole thing is worth reading. I don’t have much to add, but I do want to respond to a challenge in the post that I’m pretty sure was directed at me:

Perhaps a more research-oriented blogger may look at how many employees we have per-capita, but since…

dto510 is in luck! Thanks to a truly amazing product called the Statistical Abstract of the United States, I, without doing any research or even math of my own, can tell you that Oakland, as of 2005, had 138 full time equivalent (FTE) positions per 10,000 residents, up from 128 in 1995. I can also tell you that during the ten years we added those 400 new positions, our payroll more than doubled, and the average monthly earnings for full-time employees swelled from $4,483 to $7,397.

How do we compare to other large cities? See for yourself (PDF).

And really, please do head over to Future Oakland and read “Dellums admits budget errors, prepares to make more.

22 thoughts on “Oakland employment per capita, 1995 and 2005

  1. Chris Kidd


    While payroll did double in 10 years and monthly earnings jumped nearly $3,000, I think that those figures should be taken in the context of the national trend that is demonstrated in the pdf you attached. Even in cities that significantly cut their staff over the same period, we’re seeing increases in payroll (which is only natural). We also had less employees per 10,000 than a lot of other comparably sized cities in 1995, which might explain the hiring of 800 additional employees since then.

    Yes, our rate of increase in payroll and average earnings is FAR higher than a lot of other cities. Yes, these are numbers writ large and don’t take into account the differing situations of our country’s very diverse cities. Yes, it does nothing to address the WAYS in which increased staff and payroll was distributed in the city gov’t and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of those decisions. All I wanted to do was offer a tempering viewpoint before the “let’s cut 40% of staff and privatize the other 60%” bandwagon shows up.

  2. Allan

    Wow! What an eye-opener! I had no idea that the monthly employee pay is so far above average for cities. This may be related to the overtime paid due to understaffing of police.

    I assume Oakland regularly has a consultant do a comparable pay study. Anyone ever see it? Is it available?

  3. Chris Kidd

    I hadn’t considered overtime; That could really inflate our average earnings relative to other cities. We also just live in an expensive part of the country. Maybe a better way to look at it would be rate of increase isolated to oakland? Get an average control figure for the general rate of increase nation-wide and subtract it from Oakland’s increase rate? Or maybe do a rate-of-increase comparison to the last ten years? Rate of increase versus general earning power for the general bay area population? I feel like we can plumb the depths of this info by creating some better metrics.

    That being said, money spent is money spent. They gotta do a better job.

  4. Oakland Dude

    Overtime aside, did anyone else notice that the average monthly pay in Oakland is more than any other major city in the country? That includes SF, SJ, LA, NY, and other areas that would be considered expensive to live in. Even factoring overtime (whch has been reported as being a problem in many other cities like SF), it seems that any idea that the city has been putting the money we give in property and sales taxes to very poor use. Most seems to be going to salary, not services. I am not against people making a fair wage, but this seems to be ridiculous.

  5. PaulineZ

    Using the local Oakland Digest, June 2008 issue, by Sanjiv Handa, he reports in 4 years the city of Oakland employees with base salaries greater than $100,000 has increased from 247 to 606, an increase of 359 employees.

    He reports that when overtime, car allowances, bonuses and other compensation are included, the count of employees taking home greater than $100,000 is more than 1,200 which is about 28 percent of full time employees.

    He reports that in June 2004, 7 City employees earned more than $200,000 and several of them reached that number by cashing in accumulated leave. By December 2007, there were 73 City employees who took home more than $200,000 with about 2 dozen shy of this number by a few thousand dollars. He reports that more than 165 City employees are likely to earn $200,000 this year; this amount includes base salary, overtime, bonuses, other compensation like car allowances.

    In Tuesday’s City Council Kids First meeting, Pat Kernighan said that 75% of the city dollars is for salaries. I think she was referring to the General Fund because that is where the Kids First group wanted to get more money. I am new to paying attention to Oakland city machinations and don’t know where restricted versus unresticted terminology is used.

  6. Deckin

    I don’t know, but looking at employees per 10k residents it seems as if Oakland comes out pretty good. In general, CA and the south seem to do well and the big legacy cities of the east coast badly. Sure, it would have been nice to do what Milwaukee did or run as lean a ship as LA or other places, but compare Oakland to SF–what a racket they’ve got going on over there. I think the raw numbers aren’t the story here–it’s the software, not the hardware.

    City employment is pretty much a sinecure anywhere you find it; the difference is in the underlying attitudes of those we gift with a stress free life at very good wages. I know that we hear about all the hardworking people working for the city, but I can tell you from both sides of this street that no one is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about their job or their performance at City Hall. It’s just that some people will do more out of sheer guilt, if nothing else, about their good fortune, while others will milk it with nary a second thought. If someone wants proof of where the fat part of the curve for Oakland’s municipal employees is, I’ll drive you to their favorite napping areas in the lightly traveled hills. Anyone want photos?

  7. justin

    I think it would also be interesting to have those employees per 10K stats minus police and fire. Everyone complains that we are understaffed in police, so hiring cops alone will up our ratio, which I don’t think is a bad thing. Also, I don’t think it is intrinsically wrong to have city employees, per se, particularly if they are providing quality services.

    The important point is the average salaries of the employees vs their counterparts in Berkeley and SF. I think it can be pretty well argued that they are too high, given both the area average and Oakland’s terrible budget situation. I think we will finally see some move towards lay offs, which I do not think are bad under the circumstances and may finally show employees that there is actually a way to leave employment at the City of Oakland non- voluntarily. I think such a little bit of coercion is not unwarranted.

  8. Robert

    Sometimes it is useful to actually do the legwork. The city budgt numbers for emplyees are quite a bit less than the census report data – don’t know why but it is probably a difference in definition. More interesting is in the growth of city staff over the years. Since 1980 total employees have increase by 47%, while police have increased by about 20% (for both sworn and total police. City population went up about 20% in the same time period. I am skeptical of hte 1980 population number, but it appears to be the official census number.

    Year Population Tot. Emp. Tot. Police Sworn Police
    1961 367,548 3,080 809 652
    1970 361,541 3,516 1,018
    1980 339,337 3,003 953 631
    1991 372,242 4,107 1,158 714
    2000 399,384 4,218 1,215 751
    2007 411,755 4,401 1,180 740

    All numbers are the budgeted numbers, except for the sworn police in 2007, which appears to show 803 sworn officers. It is hard to tell because they quite summarizeing the sworn police that years.

    So the real question is what has the 20% increase in city staff above the population growth accomplished since 1980? I picked 1980 since it was the first post-Prop 13 budget.

  9. Robert

    Sorry about the formatting, lets try this a different way

    Year Population Tot. Emp. Tot. Police Sworn Police
    1961 367,548 3,080 809 652
    1970 361,541 3,516 1,018
    1980 339,337 3,003 953 631
    1991 372,242 4,107 1,158 714
    2000 399,384 4,218 1,215 751
    2007 411,755 4,401 1,180 740

  10. David


    “compare Oakland to SF–what a racket they’ve got going on over there.”

    I wonder if the fact that SF’s government combines city and county functions makes this an apples-to-oranges comparison. Just a thought — I don’t doubt that there is waste in SF’s government, but since it includes both county-level services and municipal-level services, it may need to have a larger size per capita.

  11. len raphael

    besides figuring out a way to back out police/fire from the numbers, we need a way to add in medical benefits while working, and retirement costs. city employees have told me the retirement packages were greatly increased just a few years ago.

    we also need a way to measure output other than surveys of residents and developers.

    layoffs under union rules i assume wb based on seniority. being senior myself, i gotta watch what I say, but i would expect average output per employee to drop after layoffs change the age mix.

    as far as dt0510′s call for the city to loosen development restrictions to boost transfer and property taxes, that would just be tossing a bag of crack to an city govt addicted to several years of real estate bubble transfer taxes and fees. our elected officials would avoid the personnel and program cutbacks and efficiency increases until that surge of transfer tax revenue had ended and we were running big deficits again. don’t assume that a bunch of residents and restaurants would generate enough tax revenue to feed this little shop of horrors we call oakland muni govt.

  12. Donald

    Please correct me if I am wrong, Len, but I think dto’s point was that the city benefited greatly from property taxes, not transfer taxes. The benefits of development were an on going revenue stream from property taxes and not a one time shot as is suggested. I think dto’s point was valid and correct.

  13. californio

    There are all kinds of ways to read and misread these figures, but as Oakland Dude above points out, Oakland’s rate of pay for city employees is higher than any other city in the country. That one number catches your eye.

  14. Public Servant

    As a public servant in city, county and state Government for the past 18 years, I highly support providing appropriate pay/compensation to government employees. In the state classification that I am currently under, we are seeking pay parity with other comparable positions in local and state governments and special purpose districts as we are paid on average approximately 20-25% less than our counterparts. The result of this disparity in pay is that our government agency has become simply a training ground wherein employees come in for 2-3 years, get trained, and then leave for local government positions that pay far more. The amount of turnover has been phenomenal and the loss of accumulated corporate history mind boggling. We have young, highly dedicated, professional staff with advanced degrees, some even with PHDs, who must moonlight to make ends meet in the San Francisco Bay Area and pay rent–they cannot even think of buying a home even with the recent price reductions in the housing market. If we expect to hire and retain the best and brightest in government we need to compensate them appropriately.

    Nevertheless, I do find the numbers for Oakland to be astonishing. While the 138 FTEs/10,000 residents is far below other comparable cities. the average salary of $7397/month is quite high. Apparently, the highest you can find in the country. As a state employee with 18 years of experience, a BA and MA from two of most prestigious universities in California, and supervising/managerial responsibility for 42 employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in deliverables, I barely make more than the Oakland Average (I stay because I love my job).

    My main problem with Oakland is not necessarily the high average salaries, although I am not convinced they are justified, but what it is getting us in city services. If we were getting stellar customer service I would not have any issues. However, having worked with city, county, state and federal agencies throughout California for the past 18 years, I can unequivocally say that the customer service for the City of Oakland is by far the worst of any public agency that I have ever encountered. No doubt there are some very dedicated, honest, hardworking staff (I love the Oakland Police Abandoned Auto Detail). But on the whole, my experience professionally and personally has been nothing but disappointment and frustration with the culture of disrespect, neglect, rudeness, lack of transparency, accountability and knowledge of legal processes and procedures and a general unwillingness to take ownership of problems that the public brings to Oakland City employees/bureaucrats for assistance. Perhaps if the City of Oakland had a pay for performance approach and the ability to actually fire poorly performing employees, similar to the private sector, we could really attract the best and brightest rather than having Oakland government positions serve as a guaranteed public jobs program. The only way to effectively address the looming budget deficit is with staff cuts (unless they want to foist yet another tax increase on us). Unfortunately, as with most public agencies, those with the most seniority in Oakland government will retain their positions and those with the least seniority will be the first cut. This never makes any sense, since it has nothing to do with one’s commitment to their job and has no reflection whatsoever on their job performance.

  15. oakie

    Not only is it very clear that we have bloated salaries and staffing, but think about the big picture. What the heck are we getting for all this money? It would be one thing if we felt we got good services. I, for one, think not. The concept of ‘you get what you pay for’ is highly overrated.

    The bottom line: this city’s government is as addicted to tax revenue as a crack addict. Consider McBush’s response to the price of oil: we must have more supply (off shore driiling) to drive down price, so it doesn’t hurt so much. Instead of what should we do to get off the addiciton to oil.

    So the city is going to have a good sized deficit. What’s the solution? Increased taxes, the politicians say plus cut in libraries and police support staff, of course. This city wastes an awful lot of money-and it’s not in the libraries and police technical support staff. The bloated current compensation per employee (if you subtract out the cops and fire) and number of employees since 2000 IS undeniably huge. And don’t forget the compensation data does not include the unfunded pension liability that the politicians are allowing to be shirked: that cost WILL have to be paid and the budgetary implications will be huge.

  16. David

    Over 10 years, Chicago (a city not known for budgetary efficiency or lack of graft) held its payroll increase to 15%, total, never mind how much lower salaries are there (and before you start harping on how “cheap” it is in Chicago–it ain’t that cheaper than Oakland, I know, I’ve lived in both places).

    When city population goes up barely 10% in 10 years, what justification can there be for payroll doubling???? There is absolutely none. Even with inflation adding 40-60% in costs, payroll should have gone up no more than 70%. One-third of the payroll is therefore wasted, as there is clearly no quality improvement in city services.

  17. Aaron

    Wow, according to the PDF, the average monthly earnings for an Oakland employee is higher than any other city in the country. Even employees of cities with a much higher cost of living, such as San Francisco, Santa Ana, Anaheim pull in less per month. (I’m sure there are many many more expensive cities on the list, I only know CA). I guess it goes along with Oakland being the number #1 city for city-employee corruption and fraud! It’s a shame, because Oakland could easily be just as safe and corruption free as cities like San Jose, Berkeley or San Francisco.

  18. V Smoothe

    Is what true? That Oakland’s average earnings per full time employee are higher than every other city in the country? I don’t know. The list doesn’t have every city, just the biggest ones. But according to the chart, yes, Oakland’s average monthly earnings are higher than that of any other city on the list, by a pretty dramatic amount.

    The fact that it is so much higher than any other city makes me question it, although considering Oakland’s pay scales, the figure seems pretty plausible to me.

    A note about the data here – all these figures are self-reported by the cities themselves. The source document (I can’t link to it now, as I have very limited access to the internet at the moment, but I’ll try to update with a link next week) has a kind of funny, and somewhat lengthy section about all the steps they take to try and ensure that the numbers are accurate and measurements are consistent for all cities reporting, basically saying they tried to make the process as idiot-proof as possible, but of course something’s always going to slip through the cracks. For example, the person who did the reporting for Oakland, as Robert noted in a comment upthread, apparently didn’t understand the difference between total employment and full-time equivalent employment, which is a pretty basic (and important) distinction.

    There’s a study floating around somewhere from the City about the municipal employee pay rates around the Bay Area, which is a much better metric for comparison anyway, and if I remember correctly, Oakland came out quite a bit above average. I’ll try to find that and post it here next week as well.

  19. Max Allstadt

    If our costs are well above average, our services should be too. Very very not OK.

  20. Moschops

    Not that it makes a huge difference but if you inflation adjust the 1995 $4,483 average monthly wage to 2005 dollar it comes out at $5,746 so the average monthly pay increase is 29% (based on the BLS inflation calculator: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl).

    I guess one simple explanation is that everyone got 29% better at their job or works 29% more hours?

    (No, I’m not being serious).

  21. michael bowens

    instead of laying off cops the mayor should call all department heads into a meeting and reveal the budget again and let all city of oakland employees know from the top down including the mayor that every employee has to take a pay cut to save jobs and including the police this will save everybody jobs for 3 years or more the money will go into there pension and other areas this will save lots of money and jobs.dellums we will not ever put our trust in you and never vote for you again YOU LIED mbowens and family.If employees dont go along this will mean job lost period. our system is corrupt and thats a shame and pitiful resident of oakland mbowens