Population vs. Full-Time Employees

Growth and Development Finance and Operations

Gilbert, Arizona is one of the fastest growing communities in the United States. According to the U.S. Census bureau, between 2000 and 2010, Gilbert was the fastest-growing large city in the country with a population increase of 90.0%. This also makes Gilbert the largest town in the United States and possibly even the world! When you think about the number of people moving to Gilbert, it’s interesting to see what has happened to the Town during all this growth. Let’s take a look at one of the pieces of this growth as it relates to the local government.

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In order to understand how the size of the local government relates to the actual population growth in Gilbert, we first need to take a look at the population growth over time. Even though the Census Bureau is comparing the range from 2000 to 2010, we can actually see the numbers from before those years and also after. Let’s start by pulling in some of the data from the Open Data Portal and see the population.

The Population data set for Gilbert includes data from 3 different population sources that the Town uses. We can pull population numbers from the State of Arizona, the U.S. Census Bureau, and from the Maricopa Association of Governments. Since population data from the U.S. Census Bureau is only collected every 10 years, we’re going to supplement that data with the other sources and make sure to be aware where the data differs. Let’s take a look at the general trend for population from 1980 all the way up to 2016:

As you can see, it starts off kinda slow in the 1980s and then quickly rises through 2010. It slows down a little after that but there’s still continued growth! In fact, the current population is around 247,000 people but, at build out, Gilbert is planned to have over 350,000 residents!

So let’s take a look and see how the local government has grown in response to this major boom in population. Before we do any comparisons, though, let’s pull up the data for Gilbert’s government employees and look at the trend to see if we notice any of the same patterns. Then we’ll directly compare the two data sets and compare against other cities too.

The data set we’re looking at is the Full-Time Employee count for the Town. Although most municipalities hire part-time employees also, the full-time employee count is the one that’s useful to us because it records the permanent employees that are required for major services and best shows the growth of the government. This data set is divided up by year and department so we can add up all the counts for each department to get the yearly totals.

Now, if we look at the total full-time employees per year, we get a trend line that looks like this:

Right away, we can see that there seems to be a similar increase just before 2010 but then things seem to level off. Let’s take a look at the charts stacked on top of each other and see how they compare.

To show this chart, we’ve taken the data sets and stacked them on top of each other with the Full-Time Employee data set scaled to match the Population data set. As you can see, the number of full-time employees corresponds pretty closely with the overall growth of Gilbert!

So what does this mean? How does this compare with other municipalities?

Even though Gilbert is growing very quickly, most residents will still say that Gilbert has a small-town feel to it and that it doesn’t feel like a city at all. If we take this data and average out the latest numbers, Gilbert has nearly 200 residents for every full-time employee working in the Town’s government. This puts Gilbert at the top of the pack for having a high government employee to resident ratio with only six cities in the nation being more lean than Gilbert.

Let’s look at some direct comparisons to cities around the U.S.! To start, we’re going to grab some public data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We’ll be using the 2016 Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll since that’s the most recent year where we have population and workforce data for most cities.

The Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll collects employment data for governments such as the number of full-time employees, the number of part-time employees, the total payroll spending, and the number of full-time equivalent employees. This last number is the one we’ll be looking at. The full-time equivalent employees number adds all the part-time employees together and then figures out how many full-time employees it would take to perform that work and then adds that to the actual number of full-time employees. Most municipalities use this number to measure the approximate total size of their workforce.

Now that we know the number we’re looking for, let’s look at how Gilbert compares to other municipalities that are similar in size.

City Name Population Full-Time Employees* Residents Per Employee

*As noted above, this value is commonly referred to as Full-Time Equivalent Employees.

Gilbert, Arizona 233,423 1,198 193.12
Chesapeake, Virginia 235,429 8,797 26.76
Hialeah, Florida 237,040 1,334 177.69
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 228,320 6,816 33.50
Boise, Idaho 220,281 1,780 123.75

As you can see, Gilbert’s resident to employee ratio is very low. In fact, there are only 6 cities in the United States with a higher ratio than Gilbert!

This doesn’t tell the full picture, though. Some municipalities need additional employees for services that don’t exist in Arizona. After all, we’ve never had to shovel sunshine! Let’s take a look at how Gilbert compares to other cities in this region.

City Name Population Full-Time Employees* Residents Per Employee

*As noted above, this value is commonly referred to as Full-Time Equivalent Employees.

Mesa 478,243 3,666 130.45
Glendale 243,208 1,656 146.86
Scottsdale 239,873 2,391 100.32
Gilbert, Arizona 233,423 1,198 193.12
Tempe 177,953 1,779 100.03

As you can see, even in the Valley, Gilbert is the leanest government organization of all its local neighbors.

As Gilbert continues to grow in the future, it’s important to look at what services the government is providing while keeping costs and taxes for residents low. As new services and technology provide innovative avenues for service and resident engagement, it’ll be important to see how the number of employees change with the population growth. Some services will require the Town to hire more employees but others may allow the Town to consolidate and offer more services with the same staff.

I don’t know about you but I’m excited to see where the future of Gilbert takes us! Thanks for coming along with me to learn more!

2 Responses to “Population vs. Full-Time Employees”

    • Hi, Marty! Sorry for the delayed response. Although I don’t have the data specifically for what’s being built at specific locations around the Town yet, I do have a link that might help you get that information. Here’s a mapping tool of all the Planning and Zoning cases for specific parcels in Gilbert. If you click on each point, you won’t see exactly what’s being built there but you’ll at least see a summary of the type of development or plan for that area. I hope that helps!!

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