Excluding education and hospitals, state and local governments employ about 8.3 million workers, placing them among the largest employers in the economy.
Seven out of 10 of these employees work for local governments, such as counties, cities, special districts, and towns. Also, large numbers of State and local workers work in public education—a major part of the educational services industry, which is discussed elsewhere in the Career Guide. Many state and local workers also work in public hospitals, which are included in the healthcare industry elsewhere in the Career Guide.
In addition to the 50 state governments, there were about 87,500 local governments in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These included about 3,000 county governments; 19,500 municipal governments; 16,500 townships; 13,500 school districts; and 35,100 special districts. Illinois had the most local government units, with nearly 7,000; Hawaii had the fewest, with 19.
In many areas of the country, citizens are served by more than one local government unit. For example, most states have counties, which may contain various municipalities such as cities or towns, but which also often include unincorporated rural areas. Townships, which do not exist in some states, may or may not contain municipalities and often consist of suburban or rural areas. Supplementing these forms of local government, special district government bodies are independent, limited-purpose governmental units that usually perform a single function or activity. For example, fire districts and ambulatory services often are provided by a special district.