Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lies and Dammed Lies, and Statistics: Government Employment Numbers

I was surfing the web the other day, looking through random blogs that I would happen open, when I found one that made a claim that President Obama did a better job with private sector than President Bush.  Now I don't know if this is true or not, it could very well be. But the graphic he had posted seemed a little off so I decided that I would email it to myself to look at later.  Unfortunately I forgot to insert the link in my email to myself and I haven't been able to find that particular post.  Either way it sparked a interest in jobs statistics that I decided to take a look at. 

One thing that I will mention about the other blog post was that there was no mention where the graph, or the data that was used to construct the graph, came from.  This is important because statistical data can be skewed any which way, so it is important to at least have a general idea where the data is coming from.  This gives others the opportunity to examine the data and come to their own conclusions, it also has the added benefit that another set of eyes can see something that you did not.  That being said the graphs I will be posting are made by me with data from two separate sources:

The Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This will allow anyone reading this post an opportunity to independently examine the data I use.  Be sure to read the chart from right to left.

The first chart shows the total number of federal employees, not including those in uniform, that are employed by the government. This includes part time employees since I have the understanding that our current employment statistics do the same.  At this point I feel the need to mention that there is a difference in how the government presented the data for the years prior to 2007.  From 2007 on they show the number of full time and part time employees separately.    From 2006 and earlier they only show full time and 'equivalent full time' employees.  Equivalent full time employees, from how I read the data, simply the sum of various part time employee hours to make one full time employee. So if we had 3 individuals working part time but their total hours for the week adds up to 40 hours; then those 3 part time employees would count as the equivalent of 1 full time employee by the BLS. This means that the years prior to 2006 are understanding the actual number of workers that work for the government.

This leads me to a quick digression. I have noticed while compiling my charts and looking through government data that their methodology seems to change after so many years.  I don't attribute this too any nefarious plot by our government. It's more easily explained as that a new bureaucrat that was in charge of whatever department or sub department didn't like how the data was compiled by his predecessor and presented and wanted to find a 'better' way. And the new way of presenting data may indeed be better, but it makes it very difficult to compare sets of data that are separated by a significant gap of time.

As the first chart shows.  The number of federal employees did not shrunk under President Obama's term, but, rather, significantly grew. This would seem to lay low the claim that the other blogger had made, however, he had his data normalized to some sort of index.  Since he never showed his data sources, and since I was careless enough to lose the link, we don't know whether his statement, and data, was erroneous or not.

The federal government only makes up a small portion of all the government jobs out there.  Just look at the graph below.  The blue portion of the chart are all the government jobs that are Federal while the red are all the other government jobs that exist.

When you add in all the state and local government jobs then you end up with a significant section of the population that works for the government at one level or another.  Government employment has not seen a drop, at all, during any of those years.  During the worst years of the Financial crisis, from 2007 to 2009, government employment increased by about 450,000 jobs. This is in contrast to the number of non-military non-government civilian jobs during those years, which show job losses totaling a little under 7,000,000.  See the chart below that shows the entire non military civilian employed population, this includes people employed by the government and private enterprise.

In 2001 the total number of the civilian labor force that was employed stood at 136,485,000 which decreased by 448,000 during the 2001 recession. From 2002 on employment increased from 136,485,000 to 146,047,000 in 2007.  Now many of these jobs were due to the real estate and financial bubble because from 2007 to 2008 we saw civilian employment decrease by almost 700,000 with job losses continuing to 2010.  The BLS and the Census didn't have any statistics from 2010 on, but from 2007 to 2010 this country saw non-military civilian employment decrease by almost 7 million.  Though some government employees may have lost their jobs, as a whole, government employment expanded, not contracted during this period.  See below which shows the percent of the civilian labor force that is employed by some government body.

Now I need to stress again that how the BLS reported government employment changed after 2006. This accounts for the massive increase because prior to 2006 the government was under reporting how many individuals were employed by them either in a full or part time occupation.  What's interesting is that only looking at the data from 2007 on, which is all presented under the same paradigm, government employment has grown relative to the total civilian employed population of the United States. 

This might be waved off as an anomaly because government sector employment is much harder to terminate private sector employment so it doesn't signify anything other than that we are in a recession.  But looking at the actual data it tells a different story.  Federal government employment increased by 277,000 from 2007 to 2010 with state and local growing by 213,000 in that same period.  If this were a relative increase due to job losses then we woul have seen government employment stay near level. However, it didn't stay level, it increased by almost a half a million in contrasts to the 6,983,000 jobs that disappeared from 2007 to 2010.  The data shows that not only did the private sector bear the entire brunt, but that even if certain departments of the government were losing jobs or being let go, that government employment as a whole grew.

This should be alarming because government, excluding a few sectors such as power or transportation, doesn't produce anything. Government exists to help govern the nation, or essentially help facilitate in the production of wealth.  A government that makes sure the roads are paved and that law and order pervades helps facilitate growth, but it ends there.  Any additional endeavours, through direct or indirect means, of producing GDP growth come at the expense of some other aspect of the private sector.  Long term economic growth can not, and does not, come from individuals being employed by the Federal government. Keep that and mind. And if my data collection and analysis are not flawed, which they might be, then the information I have presented should be a bit sobering.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.