How Much Has Government Grown?

| About: SPDR S&P (SPY)

The chart above shows the monthly employment levels since 1969 in: a) the construction and manufacturing sectors combined, and b) government. Back in 1969, there were almost 2 manufacturing and construction jobs for every government employee. Since then, government employment almost doubled from 12 million in 1969 to almost 24 million today, as manufacturing and construction jobs have remained flat and have recently fallen, to the point that there are now more workers employed by government than are employed in the manufacturing and construction sectors. A version of this graph was posted here and here (thanks to Tim Wise).

But before getting too depressed about that trend, I decided to check something else: Government employees as a percent of total nonfarm employment, and the interesting results are presented here:

As the chart shows, there has been a general downward trend in government employees as a percent of total payrolls since the mid-1970s, from more than 19% in 1975 to below 16% by 1998, with a slight reversal of the trend since 2000.

As much as we hear about the growth in government, it seems like the jobs data tell a different story. Comment welcome.

One explanation for the top chart is that there have been so many productivity gains in manufacturing that we can produce increasingly higher levels of output over time with fewer and fewer manufacturing workers?

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