Friday, December 7, 2012

Unemployment rates plunge...for government workers

While today's headlines are celebrating that unemployment rates have hit a four-year low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73 percent of the new jobs created in the United States over the last five months are in government. In fact, the unemployment rate for civilian government workers plunged from 4.2 percent in October to 3.8 percent as government added 35,000 people to its taxpayer-funded payrolls during the month. So it seems the 146,000 "new jobs added" cited in today's reports are a little skewed.

The BLS shows that in June, a total of 142,415,000 people were employed in the U.S, including 19,938,000 who were employed by federal, state and local governments. By November, the total number of people employed had climbed to 143, 262,000, an overall increase of 847,000 in the six months since June.
In the same five-month period since June, the number of people employed by government increased by 621,000 to 20,559,000 These 621,000 new government jobs created in the last five months equal 73.3 percent of the 847,000 new jobs created overall.

In October, federal, state and local governments in the United States employed 20,524,000 people. In November, that climbed to 20,559,000. As recently as July, the unemployment rate for government workers was as high as 5.7 percent, according to the BLS.  That month, government employed only 20,015,000. Since July, governments have added 544,000 workers to their payrolls.

Are the fallen unemployment claims for overall employment just more smoke and mirrors from this administration? There is no election to be won, so why the hoax? If we look at the numbers this way -- 146,000 new jobs, most of them in the public sector, 360,000 people whose unemployment benefits have expired and who are still not working, and 122,000 new people who have entered the workforce, the total net job loss is about 336,000.

Under President Obama, the unemployment level had been above 8% for 43 consecutive months. To put that in perspective, in the previous 60 years, the unemployment rate topped 8% in a total of only 39 months. But now suddenly we're supposed to believe things are turning around? Maybe for government workers they are...but not for private sector job seekers.

It seems Obama's "fundamental transformation" of America is carrying on as he planned. Unfortunately, this is not good news for any of us who'd like to see America survive and thrive.

What do you think?  Click on the comments link in the bar below to share your thoughts. No registration necessary.


  1. To get the increases you're citing, I think you have to use non-seasonally adjusted data, which has its own pitfalls. For example, check the figures for state/local employment, and you’ll see huge seasonal changes, which is important if one is, say, picking the month of June for comparison to November’s employment numbers.

    Federal employment spiked just before Obama came into office, continued to increase through the Census, and has been more or less decreasing ever since; current federal employees are sitting at 2.799M (seasonally adjusted), which is slightly higher during the Bush administration (not including Census employment). Plus, that number is slightly lower than it was in your selected month of June (2.813M) and last month (2.804M). If we're talking non-seasonally adjusted data, it's ~2.788M this past month, down from your selected month of June of this year (2.829M) and from the last month (2.805M), with this last month being on the high end of the range of federal employment seen in the Bush administration.

    State numbers show an increase in employment. Seasonally adjusted, this past month saw an increase from 5.073M to 5.079M (6,000), and an increase from 5.054M (19,000) in June. Not seasonally adjusted, this past month saw an increase from 5.225M to 5.253M (25,000), with an increase from June’s 4.829M (424,000).

    Local numbers show an increase or decrease depending on if you use seasonally adjusted numbers. Seasonally adjusted, this past month saw a decrease from 14.086M to 14.084M (-2,000), with an increase from 14.061M in June (23,000). Not seasonally adjusted, it went from 14.294M to 14.397M this month (103,000), with an increase from June. If we look at the increase from June’s 14.237M (160,000).

    Add increases from state and local governments to the decrease of the federal government since, and we roughly get at your figure of 544,000 jobs added in government since June so long as we use non-seasonally adjusted data. However, using seasonally adjusted data, government jobs have increased by 28,000 since June.

    Of course, cherry-picking a random month from the year is not helpful; trends are the most worthwhile. I downloaded the appropriate graphs from the BLS and have posted them to an image site as an album: Immediately, you’ll see the importance of using seasonally adjusted data. It’s really easy to manipulate non-seasonally adjusted data to seem like there’s a huge increase within a period of a couple of months. Another trend is that the total number of government employees has been rising at least since the year 2000, and started decreasing around 2008-2009. Further, the increase in federal employment started in 2008, before Obama was elected.

    I agree that government is too big, but the size of state and local governments (thankfully) is outside of the federal government's (and definitely Obama's) purview. Plus, I think this is signalling a shift from federal government to state/local government, which we should generally applaud.

    Now typically when I post to this blog, I usually get people saying that I'm brainwashed, can't see the truth, etc. etc., but I'm a voting Republican who just likes to see the finer points in politics and wants to see both sides get along. Succinctly said, I avoid sensationalist rhetoric.

    If you really want to tell me I'm wrong, please go to the BLS tables yourself and prove it. Go here: and head to the bottom of the page, checking the boxes for the three different kinds of government and total government. At the next page, adjust the years to whatever you want (default range is 2002-2012), and add graphs if you want.

    1. I won't try to defend the numbers, but this came almost verbatim from Rush Limbaugh, who isn't exactly the paragon of unbiased journalistic integrity.

    2. Ah, given that information, I see the discrepancy. Rush used CPS data (household surveys - see table A8) instead of CES data (establishment surveys - see table B1). Employment changes are better measured with CES data because it's designed to track population changes; CPS data is used more for tracking rates and demographics, and it is more subject to sampling errors because it has a much smaller sample size. Plus, CPS data doesn't differentiate between local/state/federal government employment, but CES data does.

      Read more:

      Thanks for the tip, and God bless!

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