News Story

State’s Private Sector Workers Lost Income In 2020; Public Sector, Not So Much

That’s what an ongoing Michigan Capitol Confidential survey keeps finding

As hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents who earn their living in the private sector have suffered lost income, jobs and businesses due to the pandemic and government-mandated lockdowns, public officials want you to know that governments are suffering, too.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor called the recent $1.9 trillion federal stimulus law critical, saying it was “an important step toward providing relief for the economic hardship cities are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the pandemic has been hard on everyone, including “everyone who serves in state and local government,” according to MIRS News.

A new president and Congress have heard the call, with Michigan in line to receive $2.5 billion in federal aid from the 2021 bill, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber.

For all the new debt-funded largesse, there has been little attention paid to whether municipal governments actually need extra money. But payroll records obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests suggest that state and local government employees may have been a protected class throughout the pandemic.

Records obtained from dozens of cities, villages and counties reveal a trend of municipal employees prospering during the pandemic.

Here are just a few examples from the city of Dearborn. Rather than being outliers, they are fairly representative of the records that have been examined:

A administrative specialist who works for the Dearborn fire chief saw her salary increase from $60,362 in 2019 to $74,057 in 2020.

In rare instances examined, where a municipal employee saw a decline in gross pay last year, it was not due to a cut in base pay.

For example, a water technician for the city of Dearborn collected $139,600 in 2019, which declined to $137,522 in 2020. Both pay figures are well above the base pay for that position, according to job websites.

According to, the base salary of a water treatment specialist is about $54,637 a year. A Michigan Waste Water Treatment Technician I gets a median salary of $41,391, according to

There were dozens of unionized police and fire department employees who enjoyed large pay increases.

One female firefighter with 15 years of experience saw her gross pay increase from $99,634 in 2019 to $111,290 in 2020, a 12% increase. That type of pay bump was not uncommon with city fire and police jobs.

Some city employees received small increases. For example, Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly’s gross pay increased from $165,358 in 2019 to $166,011 in 2020, up just $653.

But on at least a statistical basis, any pay increase in 2020 put its recipient ahead of the state workforce as a whole.

As Michigan Capitol Confidential reported, “The income that Michigan residents earned from employment dropped by 2% in 2020. Net payroll earnings in the state were $330.5 billion in 2020, down from $337.3 billion in 2019. Only seven other states experienced a larger percentage drop in residents’ earnings in the year of the pandemic, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.