One of the criticisms leveled against the Federal Government’s efforts of the last couple of years in response to the Great Recession is that the “government is gettng too big”. Well as they say on TV, let’s go to the tape. Or, in this case, let’s look at the actual numbers over time. Fortunately, we don’t have to dig them up, Menzie Chinn already has:
The “Ever-Expanding” Government Sector, Illustrated
Just some numbers to bring reality into the general discussion:
Figure 1: Employment in government, in thousands, seasonally adjusted (blue), and excluding temporary Census workers (red). Total series is “USGOVT” from FREDII. NBER defined recession shsaded gray, assumes last recession ended 2009M06. Source: BLS, August employment situation release.Update 8:50am Pacific, Thu 9/9:
Reader John Eckstein was kind enough to send me disaggregated government employment data, so that I wouldn’t have to do it myself. Here are some graphs thus generated. Note, these figures do not include uniformed military; they are based the establishment survey.
Figure 2: Federal (red), state (green), local ex.-educ. (orange) and local-education (purple), as a share of total nonfarm payroll employment (FRED II series PAYEMS). Source: BLS CES data via John Eckstein, and FRED II, and author’s calculations.