Wednesday, January 21, 2009

If This is America, What's it Like Here?

This graph shows the number of people employed by the US government and the number of people employed in the US manufacturing sector. Theo Spark poses the relevant question: If that's America, what would such a graph look like for the UK? Does anyone have the relevant figures?

UPDATE: A reader has kindly supplied the equivalent UK graph.

UPDATE: A reader emails with the following information...

USA working population 154m ish so Government payroll at 22m is some 14% of total.

UK working population 29m ish so Public employment at 8m ish is some 28% of total.


Akheloios said...

The growth of Government Payrolls follows the population growth quite closely. What the problem seems to be is that manufacturing jobs have stagnated or declined.

That's the death of the working class job you see there, not the rise of the bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

I notice the start of the major slump in manufacturing coincides with Dubya taking office.

Tristan said...

Seems wrong to take just manufacturing and construction - they're both areas of increased productivity and lowering employment, whilst other parts of the (nominally) private sector are expanding.

I fail to see why people attach such importance to manufacturing jobs, unless its some view that the 'poor people' can only do meanial manufacturing jobs (which does seem to be the case for some state socialists).

What would be far more useful is the percentage of population employed directly by the state, the percentage whose jobs rely upon state funding, those whose jobs do not and those who rely upon the state in other ways (unfortunately those whose jobs rely on the state is too difficult to work out given the massive distortions that regulation introduces to the economy).

That, unfortunately, would be a far more depressing picture I am sure.

Blackacre said...

Interesting that public sector jobs grew throughout the supposedly small government Reagan and Bush years. I wonder if a similar thing happened here under the Thatcher and Major governments.

Raedwald said...

Government jobs may include the US military - and the other scale excludes service sector jobs that have been growing over the period to replace manufacturing as the old economies underwent structural changes.

UK figures would also need to add in the explosion of quango jobs as 'agencies' are hived off from the civil service establishment totals to hide growth

DespairingLiberal said...

One complication is that a lot of manufacturing jobs depend on government expenditure, for example, those in military production. I imagine the true figure for government is much higher, unless whoever produced that table has already factored that in.

The modern western command economy is largely dependant on government decision making and procurement. One of the things that always makes me smile in politics is all those tory conferences lining up to condemn public spending and high taxes, whilst at the same time many of their corporate donations come from firms directly benefitting from them.

The "corporate dole" is many times larger than direct public spending on benefits. Much of taxpayer's money in all western economies currently goes to maintaining the wealthy lifestyles of boards of directors and government consultants.

Trend Shed said...


I suspect the graph would look somewhat like the old Halifax adverts, when they used to draw a big 'X' in the sky.

Johnny Norfolk said...

It should be the Tory party that is showing this.
Why is it left to you.

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BrianSJ said...
has numbers of jobs (rather than cost)

Chris Paul said...

And your point is? That in an essentially Conservative run country, the USA, state employment has grown more or less in line with population, as we might expect in most any economy, with a particular slump in industrial jobs under the last Conservative regime? Is that the point?

Still smaller state employment in UK now than under Thatcher? Despite significantly higher population.

As Tristan says the fetish for manufacturing jobs is baffling. Globalisation, you know? The doctrine of comparative advantage, you know? Capitalists being "economic man" to a fault, you know?

These things usually exclude military. No idea whether your graph does. No attribution to check this ...

The relevant figures for the UK are of course readily available.

Anonymous said...

This graph gives the lie to the fact that is some bastion of frenzied free enterprise.

The federal monolith is as bad there as anywhere and pork barrel spending makes it worse.

Funny the way Europhiles seem the most rabidly anti American given they seem intent on perpetuating the worst of US excesses

Bill Quango MP said...


Anonymous said...

Yes,the graph must definately include all the artificial charities and quangos set up to "advise" and justify goverment legislation.That should swell the figures quite a lot.

Lola said...

Chris Paul - "Still smaller state employment in UK now than under Thatcher? Despite significantly higher population."

'E's at it again. The Big Lie technique. It's a nonsense statement that if properly investigated would prove to be a deceit, but by then he would hope that the argument had moved on.

Quite clearly that statement is cobblers, but it would take me time and effort to add up all the jobs that owe their living to transfer payments from the wealth creating private sector to the overhead of the public sector, and then deduct loosely wealth creating public sector jobs - arms manufacturers spring to mind.


Newmark said...

Chris Paul said...
"... in an essentially Conservative run country, the USA, state employment has grown more or less in line with population ..."

The rate of increase in state employment in the U.S. was substantially greater than could be accounted for by population growth. The graph shows that state employment in the U.S. almost doubled between 1969 and 2008. The population grew by only about 50% in that period.

NightGardener said...

Bob said...

Cannot believe that Big Government Dems had the White House for this many years.

Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2, etc etc all increased the size of the state......

James Dowden said...

Manufacturing matters precisely because of globalization. The current crisis is essentially a gigantic balance-of-payments problem.

Whilst we've been sitting around sanctimoniously preaching about what faithful adherents to economic theories we are, those who cheated (principally by devaluation) won a competitive advantage on a global scale. And although we've papered over the cracks by creating a competitive advantage in bubbles, we have now witnessed the bursting of these bubbles. The financial fiddles didn't work, and I would not like to try to enforce the restrict-knowledge economy in a court on the other side of the world.

The only way we are going to get out of this massive balance-of-payments problem is by exporting something that the rest of the world can effectively demand. This will mean short-term pain as the era of cheap imports ends and the Pound falls to its natural level against the currencies of the countries that cheated.

In the rebalanced world economy, British manufacturing will have a key role -- not just megalithic boom industries, but genuine enterprise Birmingham-style by thousands of small manufacturers: the government must ensure that the financial criminals are not allowed to stifle this enterprise.

Sobers said...

The fact that 'only' 14% of Americans, vs 28% of the British, work for the government is the reason why, for all their problems, I'd rather be in America than here in the UK. We have a massive dead weight of an unproductive Public Sector around our neck, and it is so large now that any attempts to cut public spending will be met by massive public outcry and unpopularity for whichever govt tries to do it. We are addicted to the Nanny State and any attempt to make us take responsibility for ourselves will be dead in the water electorally.

Which is why I fear apocalyse - the only way the state will be pruned back is when there literally is no more money to pay the wages of teachers, nurses and policemen. There will have to be 'blood on the streets', possibly literally, before the penny drops. Then we can restructure society in a more sustainable manner. But huge destruction will have to occur first, sadly.

Richard Gadsden said...

I think you'll find that that 14% working for the government is federal only - all the state, county and city employees aren't normally included in that figure, but you still have to pay taxes for them.

Unknown said...

Shoddy. The UK figures include "education and health". The US doesn't have a significant public health service - so you need to strip over a million out of the UK figures for starters. If the US figures are federal only, then you'll also need to strip "education" out of the UK figures.

BOF2BS said...

Shabby Shoddy Greg.

To quote Mr Dale read what is said:

Government Payroll

Public employment.

Off you go and adjust for all the Nationalised Banks the unemployed etc etc

Maybe Digby was right eh!

Akheloios said...

The rate of increase in state employment in the U.S. was substantially greater than could be accounted for by population growth. The graph shows that state employment in the U.S. almost doubled between 1969 and 2008. The population grew by only about 50% in that period.

In fact, the population growth 1969 - 2008 was from ~200,000,000 to ~305,000,000.

The rise in government payroll 1969 - 2008 (on this graph) was from ~12,250,000 to ~22,500,000.

That means the rise in population and the rise in government payroll was well within the same order. Being a rise of 1.53 in the case of population and a rise of 1.83 in the case of payroll.

This is well within the margin of error, and as US government payroll shrank considerably during the liberal Clinton era, it stands against the more conservative Bush era.

The payroll grows proportionally to the population, with variations well within statistical noise for the economic cycle.

I did do a little research, obviously you didn't, and total government payroll, as accounted for by the US Census Bureau has been limited on the high end at 8,000,000. This has been pretty much consistent since the early days of the Clinton era to the present. So no calls of partisan bias can be made.

What we're seeing here, is a gross overestimation of government payroll.

I will admit it's shocking, but not because of the rise in government jobs. It's shocking that since 1969, there has been a net DECREASE in nominally working class manufacturing jobs.

That's where the class war is. A constant cynical pressure on safe working class employment. Leading to the destruction of the Unions and their collective bargaining powers and the rise of the minimum wage temp jobs with no security or benefits.