You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

GRAPH: Government Employment Is Way Down Under Obama

Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Republicans often like to claim that President Barack Obama has massively increased the size of government. Settling on an exact measure of "size" is difficult, but one easy way to examine it is to look at the change in public sector jobs during his administration. By that measure, the government has shrunk significantly over the past five plus years. Bill McBride, who runs the terrific economic blog Calculated Risk, has put together an updated graph of public sector payrolls under different presidents. Take a look:

public sector jobs
Source: Calculated Risk

Now, Republicans will undoubtedly argue that the size of the public sector workforce is a poor indicator of the reach of the federal government. And many of those public sector job losses have come at the state and local levels. That’s all true. But employment in the federal government has fallen as well. When Obama took office in January 2009, the federal government employed 2.792 million people. Right now, it is down to 2.714 million.

Not that this is good news. Cuts to public sector payrolls have had a significant negative effect on the economy. But it does go to show that conservative claims that Obama has massively expanded the size of government are not necessarily true, at least by this metric.