This morning, chief bloviator Donald Trump issued an executive order freezing federal hiring. Such a move probably appeals to those who think that the growth of government is “out of control.” That might be true in some senses—surveillance and the warfare state certainly qualify, but Trump only wants accelerate their growth. But one thing that doesn’t qualify is the subject of the order: federal employment.
Graphed below are federal employment in thousands and as a percentage of total employment, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly survey of employers. The absolute number of federal employees at the end of 2016 (2.804 million) is actually slightly below what it was 20 years earlier (2.839 million) and 40 years earlier (2.850 million). During the Obama years, federal employment grew by a whopping 29,000 workers. Measured as a percentage of overall employment, the federal sector has been in a steady decline, from a peak of 5.3% in 1952 to 1.9% now. It was 2.1% when Obama took office.
No doubt this will matter little to the bloviators. But it’s true.