Non-Defense Federal Government Employment Has Fallen Under Obama, and Grew Under Bush

(change, in thousands of jobs) Jan 2001 to Jan 2005 Jan 2005 to Jan 2009 Jan 2001 to Jan 2009 Jan 2009 to Oct 2011
Federal Govt Employment -35 66 31 49
Defense Civilian Employees -27.5 25 -2.5 63.5
Federal excl Defense -7.5 41 33.5 -14.5

Federal Government employment, other than civilian employees in the Defense Department, has fallen during the Obama Administration.  In contrast, it grew under Bush.

While the numbers are small, in particular relative to national employment (the Federal Government only employs about 2.8 million workers, out of a US labor force of 154 million, or just 1.8%), it is helpful to get the facts straight in the light of the continued Republican attacks that the Federal Government has boomed under Obama, and accounts for the continued weak economic and employment growth of the US.  The spokeswoman for Republican Congressman and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Megan Whittemore), for example, charged in an email sent to PolitiFact (link here), that the only job growth that can be attributed to the 2009 Stimulus program was in government.  Yet as we saw in a posting made yesterday at this site (link here), total government employment in the US (mostly state and local) has fallen by close to 600,000 since Obama took office.  The purpose of this new post is to focus on what has happened to the Federal Government employment alone.

Federal Government employment is only less than 13% of total government employment in the US, so the changes here will not much matter overall.  But it is interesting that while there has been a very small growth in overall Federal employment since Obama took office (of just 1.8% total, or 0.6% annually), it has all been due to growth in civilian employees at the Defense Department.  The table above, drawn from data issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (US Department of Labor), presents the numbers.  The figures by the BLS on Defense Department employees are not seasonally adjusted, so none of the figures in the table above are either, for consistency.  However, seasonal adjustment does not make much of a change in Federal Government employment figures in any case.  The most recent available figures are for October.  It should also be noted that all employment figures of the BLS are for the civilian population, and hence exclude active military personnel in all categories.

As is seen, while the number of all Federal employees rose by 49,000 under Obama, the Defense Department civilian employees grew by 63,500, so that Federal employment excluding Defense fell under Obama by 14,500.  It is also interesting to note that Federal employment grew under Bush, all in his second term, with an increase of 33,500 non-Defense Federal workers over his two terms together (and by 41,000 in his second term alone).

In sum, Federal Government employment grew under Bush.  Under Obama, non-Defense Federal workers have declined, and overall they have grown only because of additional Defense Department civilian workers.  All the numbers are relatively small, in particular relative to the size of the full US labor force.  But the assertion by many Republican politicians that the Federal workforce has exploded under Obama is false.