Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A third of All Workers Work for the Government in America?

Someone said to me at a BBQ that a third of the US Population work the the Government in America. Taking that to mean a third of all workers, it still sounds pretty impressive. Is it true though?

I poked around some figuring this had to be one of those statements that had been fact checked a hundred times on the web already, but I didn't find anything. So I checked the Census data. Look for yourself here.

So what are the numbers? State & Local about 17MM "full time equivalent" workers (so two half time people = 1 full time). You can follow the above link for the breakdown, but some highlights are 9MM in education, About a million police, about 1.5MM in transportation (highways, air, harbors...), about 1MM in hospitals. So that's most of it right there (for State & Local). 12.5MM of a bit under 17MM. Mostly stuff people would agree is necessary and even underfunded (police and education). The stuff that people generally associate with Govt waste -- Administration - is about 700,000. Two thirds of them are accountants and watchdogs. Which most people concerned about the budget probably would want to keep.

What about the Feds?
The Census says (as of 2009): About 2.8MM including part time (2.5MM full time).
700,000 in defense (gee -- smaller than I thought. But there are another 1.5MM reserves. And then there are civilian contractors who are not Govt employees.), about 500k postal workers, 300K in the dept of Homeland Security (includes Coast Guard, Customs, airport friskers etc). Hospitals (like VA hospitals) - 200K. Those are the biggest groups. That's 1.7MM of the 2.8MM

So that's about 17MM + about 3MM = 20 Million Govt employees in 2009.
The total US labor force (Bureau of Labor Stats) is around 150 Million.
20/150 = 13% (about 6.5% of the US Population) Not small but hardly 1/3rd.
Contractors who aren't Govt employees - but are paid by the Govt - probably account for another couple percent (3MM workers), but that's harder to get data for.


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