Federal Government Employment Isn’t Increasing
This Sunday, after appearing on This Week with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman retreated to his blog where he wrote that, “Paul was completely shocked at the notion that government employment had fallen under Obama, rather than soaring.” Krugmen continued, ”
How did that happen? Almost surely it’s a case of a zombie lie that has gone unchallenged in the hermetic world of movement conservatism, so that people like Paul know, just know, something that ain’t so. I wrote about this way back: the usual suspects seized on the Census bulge in employment as evidence of a big-government surge; and because nobody in that business ever admits having been wrong, this became a “fact” that people like Rand Paul believe. He wouldn’t have made this mistake if he ever read or listened to an analysis from nonpartisan sources, but he evidently doesn’t.
It is true that federal government hiring did surge with Census hiring in 2010, but Krugman is simply wrong about the size of the federal workforce being smaller today than it was when Obama was inaugurated. A quick visit to the Department of Labor website shows that the federal government employed 2,790,000 workers in January 2009. That number did surge to 3,414,000 in May of 2010 with the Census. But today, the federal government employs 2,804,000 people. That is 14,000 more than when Obama is sworn into office.
And those numbers include the ongoing shrinkage of the U.S. Postal Service. USPS employment peaked under President Clinton at 890,000 in July 1999. Since then USPS employment has been steadily declining under both Republican and Democratic presidents. If we remove USPS employees from the equation, then the federal government has added 132,000 employees since Obama became president.
There is a kernel of truth to Krugman’s argument however. If we include state and local governments, overall government employment has gone down from 22,576,000 in January 2009 to 21,900,000 today, decline of less than 3 percent. But this 676,000 drop makes up less than one-half of one percent of the U.S. economies 133 million total payroll.
In addition to all of the Americans on the federal government payroll, record number of Americans are also receiving food stamps (46.7million), disability payments (8.8 million), and unemployment benefits (3.3 million).
The only “zombie lie” being perpetrated here is that our economy would be going gangbusters if only the federal government was employing more people.