Pay of Nevada’s public-school employees, versus private sector, is 4th highest in U.S.

Steven Miller

LAS VEGAS — As teacher union activists push for a heavy new tax on Nevada’s private-sector employers, federal data is showing that the state’s public K-12 education sector is actually doing far better, financially, than the state’s private sector.

Moreover, the gap is so large that it’s the fourth biggest in the country.

Nevada Journal — building on work recently published in the John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal by Executive Editor Don Carrington — this week accessed both the and the Silver State’s websites to learn how well Nevada’s private sector is doing, versus the average state private sector nationally.

Simple calculations show that — for 2012, the most recent year for which data is available — the Nevada private sector average income was only 86.2 percent of the private sector average nationally.

When similar calculations are done for the Nevada K-12 public-school sector, however, those employees turn out to be doing significantly better financially than their counterparts, on average, across the nation. Instead, the average annual income in Nevada’s school districts is 103.4 percent of the average wage for that sector nationally.

Viewed from the standpoint of the cost of living in Nevada, therefore, the public education K-12 sector in Nevada is sitting pretty, relative to those employed in Nevada’s private sector. The spread between the two percentages is a significant 17.2 points — one of the highest differentials in the country of a state’s K-12 public school sector over the same state’s private sector.

Remarkably, nearly all of Nevada’s neighbors had significant differentials in the other direction for the year 2012 — private-sector income above the national average and K-12 education sector income under the national average for that sector. Nevada’s most demographically similar neighbor, Arizona, had private sector income of 91.9 percent of the national average, while its education employees earned just 83.6 percent of the national average for its sector. That is a spread of -8.3 percent. Even liberal California had a -5.1 percent gap.

The one neighboring state with a positive differential was Oregon, at only 2:

Perhaps significantly, the state where the private-sector differential over the public K-12 school sector is highest of any state is Texas — a state often asserted to have the healthiest economy of any.

Nevada is at almost the entire other end of the spectrum, having the fourth highest differential of a K-12 public school establishment over a state’s private sector. The only states known to exceed Nevada in this regard are New Jersey, Maryland and Rhode Island. Figures for New Hampshire and Louisiana for 2012 were not available.

The data underlying this report is some of the best that exists on U.S. incomes, nearly all statisticians agree, since it is collected by the states for unemployment insurance purposes. In modern payroll systems, the wage and salary information that employers report to the IRS, to Social Security and to the state employment security division all must match.

Thus, this income information is hard data — it’s not a poll, nor a statistical sampling. It is an actual count of dollars, persons and their individual paychecks.

Collected from the states by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, this information is online at, where it can be accessed by statisticians and the public. Nevada’s data is online at

On both sites, it is broken down by hundreds of different individual employment codes — “NAICS” — for individual industries and sub-industries.

It is also broken down further, by whether the “establishments” reporting are in the private sector or in state or local government.

This level of detailed reporting allows analysts to compare employment sectors in multiple dimensions, such as relative to each other within a state, relative to the same sector in other states and relative to various indices and averages.

In the case of this report, it is the large spread revealed between the relative economic health of the state’s public education sector and the lagging health of the state’s private sector — as indicated by the most recently reported labor data — that assumes importance. That is because of the successful drive of the state teacher union to place on the 2014 fall ballot a gross-receipts tax — now called a “margin” tax — that is even more punitive for business firms than the gross-receipts tax rejected by the Nevada Legislature in 2003.

Notwithstanding the gap already existing, the ballot measure seeks to transfer even more wealth from the state’s weak private sector to the state’s relatively strong K-12 establishment.

According to a 107-page study of the proposed tax’s impact, released this week by Applied Analysis — a Las Vegas firm retained by both the teacher union and the Coalition to Defeat the Margin Tax — “Nevada’s effective business tax rate would be materially higher than any other Western state, including, without limitation, California.”

The Coalition to Defeat the Margin Tax made public its copy of the study. The teacher union did not.

Want to see for yourself how Nevada Journal accessed the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Nevada Workforce figures that provide the basis of this story? Click here for step-by-step directions.

Steven Miller is the managing editor of Nevada Journal, a publication of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more in-depth reporting, visit and

Steven Miller

Senior Vice President, Nevada Journal Managing Editor

Steven Miller is Nevada Journal Managing Editor, Emeritus, and has been with the Institute since 1997.

Steven graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Philosophy from Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna). Before joining NPRI, Steven worked as a news reporter in California and Nevada, and a political cartoonist in Nevada, Hawaii and North Carolina. For 10 years he ran a successful commercial illustration studio in New York City, then for five years worked at First Boston Credit Suisse in New York as a technical analyst. After returning to Nevada in 1991, Steven worked as an investigative reporter before joining NPRI.

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