Saturday, July 24, 2010

Government Employment has Grown by 39% since 1981

Government employment has grown by 39%. Almost all the growth has been at the local level.

I was reading the current series in the Washington Post called "Top Secret America" and wondering about the intelligence and counter terrorism jobs created since September 11, 2001. The figures for the intelligence community are not broken out in government employment reports. However, we can look at trends in overall government employment.

Before we start, we must look at some general employment trends in the US.

Government employment has remained about 15-18% of the total non farm payrolls since 1981. The number of workers has grown in step with the overall employment situation in the US. Since January 1981, government employment has grown by 39%. During the same period non farm employment grew by 43%. Service sector employment expanded by 68%, while goods producing jobs fell by 25%.

The total number of government employees expanded from 16,360,000 in Jan 1981 to 22,770,000 in Jun 2010. Almost all of the growth occurred at the local level. There has been little hiring at the Federal level. Federal employment rolls have barely expanded compared to the amount of hiring done by local governments. The number of Federal employees has grown by 8%. The number of state workers by 42% and the number of municipal employees has expanded by 48%.

Here are the charts that illustrate the data. The first chart shows the over all increase in government employment from 16.3 million to 22.7 million.

The second chart show the share of government employment. Local percentage has increased from about 60% to about 64%.

You can see that the US has a much smaller central (federal government) than many other countries. Power has been devolved to states and the localities. However, this "sharing" comes at the price of duplication and inefficiencies. And higher taxes. Luckily, some of the "waste" is in the form of employment. Good thing for COPS, teachers and firemen.

Is is interesting to note that when people talk about government waste, they are usually talking either about the federal government or a different jurisdiction. They never talk about their own, local government.

Here in NJ, we have over 600 local municipalities each with it's own Department of Public Works, police and fire, parks, administration and purchasing departments and local government. Yet no one wants to consolidate jurisdictions out of fear of losing something. So as much as they complain, people don't seem to mind the high taxes. They are just accept it, but people like to complain. Politicians and administrators have a vested interest, so they have little interest in consolidation.

Another note: It is very difficult to find the number of private employees performing work for the government as contractors. I would consider them government employees since they perform government functions, however they are reported as private service employees. "Top Secret America" showed how difficult it is to find information in this area.

1 comment:

Richard said...


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