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This is one obvious place to look for a government job. It may not be the right one. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Are you looking for a job? Are you looking for a government job?

Getting a job with the government has a lot to recommend it. GoGovernment.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan government "partner" that says its mission is "inspiring a new generation to serve," argues that "average government salaries are competitive with the private" sector, while "benefits, including health insurance, retirement and vacation, are extremely competitive with, if not superior to, other sectors." Crucially, adds GoGovernment, "government work is steady and secure, an attractive selling point, especially when economic times are tough."

But where do you find these cushy, high-paying, great-benefits, jobs-secure government jobs in the first place? 

Round up the usual suspects
When you hear "government jobs," most people think of the U.S. federal government -- and its home base, Washington, D.C. Indeed, according to government "media platform" Governing.com, 27.4% of the working population of Washington, D.C. is currently employed with the federal government. No. 2 was Hawaii with 5.6%. But the next two runners-up were D.C. neighbor-states Maryland, with 5.5% of jobs coming from the feds, and Virginia, with 4.6%.)

So it seems that heading to Washington, D.C., to land a "government job" is a popular idea.

Plot twist!
Focusing too intently on the epicenter of U.S. federal government may be a mistake, though. GoGovernment points out that "84 percent of federal government jobs are outside of the D.C. area." What's more, Governing.com argues there may be even greater job opportunities outside D.C. in local government.

Citing data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Governing.com noted in 2014 that literally "all" public sector job growth was coming from local governments -- whereas the state and federal workforces experienced net job losses. More recently, Labor Department data show that as of July 2015, federal government jobs had increased by 11,000 in comparison to July 2014 levels, while state government employment rose 24,000, and local government employment gained 27,000 jobs. If your objective is to land a government job with great pay, benefits, and job security, you may actually be better off trying to "hit 'em where they ain't" -- and look for a job in a place other than Washington, D.C.

Time to find some unusual suspects
Where should you look? According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as compiled by Governing.com, the top five states with the most government jobs (state and local, but not federal) are:

  • Wyoming, with 450 non-education government jobs for every 10,000 residents
  • Alaska, with 392 per 10,000 residents
  • New York -- 320 per 10,000
  • Mississippi -- 309
  • Nebraska -- 301.

In every one of these states, at least 3 out of every 100 jobs are government jobs. And that's not even counting the teachers.

Add in government employment in the form of elementary, high school, and college teachers and professors who draw a government payment, and you get:

  • 890 government jobs per 10,000 residents in Wyoming -- almost 9%!
  • 755 per 10,000 residents in Alaska -- 7.5%.
  • 598 government jobs in New York -- 6%.

And that's not all. Because so few professors are employed by the state in New York (or because so many are so employed elsewhere), when state-employed educators are factored into the mix, Mississippi and Nebraska end up with more government jobs than does New York -- 646 and 649 per 10,000 residents, respectively.

The upshot for job seekers
Here at The Motley Fool, we like to call ourselves "investors writing for investors." But every so often, we come across a truism that applies outside investing as well. It's often better to invest in a non-obvious stock than in one that everyone else has already discovered, for example. Similarly, if you are looking to land a good government job, you may be better off avoiding the obvious choice that is Washington, D.C. -- and the federal government.

Based on what we've seen above, you may be much better off going where the jobs are, rather than where everyone else thinks they are. And the five states named here just might be your best bet(s).

Rich Smith does not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him on Motley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 260 out of more than 75,000 rated members.

The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.