The government should start hiring people

Every month I like to post this chart (under sectoral changes) on Twitter after the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the jobs report. It shows the change in employment by industry since September 2008, and I mostly use it as an excuse to advocate for infrastructure spending given the abhorrent level of construction employment. This time around though, I’d like to use it to make a different point; primarily, the continued decline in public (government) employment:


Government employment since the recession hasn’t particularly leveled off, and remain as one of the few sectors that’s still shedding jobs. Standard note; the sharp spike represents temporary hiring from the 2010 Census.

Here is the government employment picture, in thousands of persons, from FRED:

AllEmpGov'tAgain, the spike represents temporary Census hiring. This data includes all sectors of government employment — local, state, and federal — with brunt of jobs being lost at state and local levels. Total public sector job losses stand at about 740,000 since September of ’08. In context, private sector employment gains since February 2010 (the bottom of the employment trough) number around 6.3 million.

In fact, one of the major differences between the Obama administration’s response to the recession and previous presidents has been this category of public employment. From Calculated Risk (with my added emphasis):

PublicPresidents From that post:

The public sector grew during Mr. Reagan’s terms (up 1,414,000), during Mr. G.H.W. Bush’s term (up 1,127,000), during Mr. Clinton’s terms (up 1,934,000), and during Mr. G.W. Bush’s terms (up 1,748,000 jobs).

There is a reason to bring all this up, which is the rather banal point that if you have one arm broken it makes little sense to break the other so they’ll match. Given the situation faced by the federal government (in terms of borrowing rates and improved budget outlook) there’s been no objective reason to further immiserate the labor market by dumping public employees. A particularly effective portion of the ARRA was the straightforward transfer to states stemming these job losses. As I wrote in the beginning, I usually post the first chart with the comment “Build Something!” With that sector trending upward, perhaps I’ll start adding “Hey Government, Hire Somebody!”


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