20 Responses

  1. Let’s add in the usual clarifications:

    For starters (for those looking for the facts behind the data, please see the following comment):

    Then, let’s recall:
    (1) This data almost certainly includes all Public sector (or possibly just civilian), which includes state and local gov.
    (2) This data also include the USPS catastrophe, which I think can fairly be excised when arguing about big gov vs small gov. At least the USPS served a good purpose for a while, but it’s failure in the marketplace hardly counts as shrinking the bureaucracy that most anti-big gov people are worried about. I’m not worried about the post office, I’m worried about the “bureau in charge of having you check in every 10 minutes to say you’re ok”.

    As noted before the difference when you look at the Federal gov jobs, less the USPS, tells a strikingly different story.


    1. @Djp,
      Well first off for purposes of determining the effect of Govt. layoffs on the economy I’m not sure why we’re excluding postal workers. Sure you may think they’re being laidoff is a good thing but what’s that have to do with the effect of their being laidoff on the economy, particularly on decreasing demand. Surely you can understand that those laid off postal workers aren’t buying many cars, or homes, or clothes, or appliances, or computers or…

      Second, I’m not seeing that big a difference in the graphs. Here’s your graph for the same dates as Sr. Mosler’s graph. They look quite similar, at least to me.

      1. @Greg Marquez,

        In reply to your first paragraph, please read (2) again.
        I tried to make it clear that the USPS workers aren’t what I’m worried about when it comes to big gov vs small gov. Though, yes, I do think it’s promising that a defunct gov agency may actually shrink! Because they actually tried to provide a service, I like the USPS, but I do recognize that they are becoming obsolete. Perhaps the gov should find a different service to provide that can be done by unskilled labor.

        As for the differences in the graphs, I think you meant to start in 2009, not 2008. In either case, the graph shows an increase in workers from 2009-2012 (it actually shows a larger increase from 2008). Mosler’s graph shows a distinct decrease from t=0 to t=36+ months. It shows it dropped by 3%. Your plot shows the series increasing from about 2050 in 2009 to 2200. That is, it shows an increase of about 7%.

        We must be looking at very different characteristics of the graphs. The hump is just the census workers entering and then leaving, and I think everyone agrees that this effect should be ignored.

    2. Thank you for telling us what you are worried about, but you only speak for yourself.

      1. The standard Republican/Conserva-Dem/minimally-informed-independent line is that government should have as few employees as possible for the purpose of keeping spending as low as possible, for the purpose of keeping taxes as low as possible. The standard Centrist Deficit Hawk line is the same except with the goal of Balancing the Budget. Postal workers are paid money, so they “count” for these purposes.*

      2. No one ever said this post was about “small government” anyway. I don’t actually know what Warren’s point is here but I guarantee it’s not about government intrusiveness.

      3. If you want to cut the number of federal employees, but only ones at the particular agencies you find annoying, then that’s probably a small fraction of the workforce. You’ll find it easier to add up the handful of agencies you object to than to take the aggregate number of employees from all agencies and try to subtract out all the soldiers, mailmen, clerks, dam inspectors, and random other workers you don’t mind. I’m not clear on just which agencies you hate, so I can’t help any further.

      4. The USPS does not compete in a market and so it has not failed in any market. It is a government-chartered monopoly whose prices are fixed by law. Some mail routes are super-profitable and they subsidize a whole ton of rural routes which are not profitable at current stamp prices. The whole thing is aggregated and dressed as a quasi-business but it’s really a government service. Mail volume has declined lately, so Congress has cut back resources allocated to USPS–which will result in poorer service; seems like it would be right up your alley. Except I guess it’s not because you don’t hate the USPS because the postman doesn’t ask you if you’re okay every day?

      *The money comes from stamps rather than taxes, but either way it goes from citizens to the government so no big diff.

      1. I think the graphs are what’s taking some of the air out of the Republican’s traditional generic big spending liberal attack.

        Seems to me that with Obama’s record he should be down 10 points, and the closeness of the race a testimony to the general attractiveness of the Republican candidates and tactics. In that sense Romney reminds me of Kerry.

      2. @WARREN MOSLER,

        “… and the closeness of the race a testimony to the general attractiveness of the Republican candidates and tactics.”

        No, it’s a testament to the fact that the media is completely in the tank for Obama. When Bush was president, there were non-stop stories about how bad the economy was and how we had a jobless recovery, etc. Also, almost every single casualty in Iraq and Afghanistan was reported prominently. Now that Obama is president? Crickets.

        Also, I agree with Djp that including state and local government in the graph is misleading. State and local government hiring decisions (or growth or shrinkage of government at that level) are determined at the state and local level, not at the federal level. From the standpoint of the president, there’s not a whole lot of difference between New York City and GE.

        Also, a big part of the growth in public sector employment under Bush was due to homeland security after the 9/11 attacks. And if Bush hadn’t been dealing with such an obstructionist Democratic congress, a lot of those jobs probably would have been counted as private sector jobs (although I’ll admit that the spending for those jobs would have come from the federal government).

        The last parenthetical comment brings up another point. The difference between private sector employment and federal government employment is hopelessly muddied if it’s federal government spending which makes those private sector jobs possible in the first place. Should Obama really get credit for unsustainable green energy jobs created (only temporarily) by the stimulus?

      1. @WARREN MOSLER,

        Once again, the distinction between a private sector job and a public sector job is blurred if it is government which is directly creating that private sector job either through direct spending, subsidies or through regulatory coercion.

        If the federal government promulgates a regulation that requires every restaurant with over 25 tables to have an internal health compliance officer on staff do the newly hired health compliance officers count as public sector jobs or private sector?

        What if the federal government offered a restaurant stimulus package that provided restaurants $50K per newly hired table busser? Are those table bussers public or private empoyees?

        Finally, I would be interested to see what the household survey graphs look like. I think there have been significant problems with the payroll survey, starting with the recovery from the 2001 recession. The payroll survey definitely undercounted the growth of independent consultants thanks to that recession and the growth of the internet (which made quitting your job and consulting for your old firm from home much easier to do).

      2. @ESM, Yes, but the binary thinkers need to have everything pairs and conflicting ones, at that. That way, if you don’t like one, you can reward the other and vice versa. That the entities simply aren’t properly comparable is too bad. The columns have to be filled in.

    3. @Djp,

      Who cares about the absolute size of the civic staff pool? Far more relevant to look at ratio of gov workers to total population.

      Can’t run a bigger farm without more employees.

      Repeat: “Data is meaningless w/o context.” Walter Shewhart

  2. The interesting political aspect of this graph is that it is the reverse of what one would expect based on “reputation”. I wonder what it would look like if the military were excluded. Not that they are not just as valid as anything else, but that when Bush expands it, it drives his public sector line up, making one think that maybe Bush hired a lot more bureaucrats, when in fact the opposite might be true. And vice verse, for Obama.

    Is there more detail behind the public sector numbers? Broken down by cabinet department, maybe?

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