That bloated federal workforce? Historically, it looks buff

Released: 
January 12, 2013

The federal government employs far fewer workers today than the average for the past 50 years, but we pay them better.

The federal government employs 600,000 fewer workers today than the average for the past 50 years. In 2011 4.36 million worked for all branches of the federal government, civilian and military. Peak federal employment in the last half century was at the height of the Vietnam War, 1968, with 6.68 million. 2011’s federal workers drew a total of $432.6 billion in compensation. The pay is getting better: in 1964 a larger federal workforce, 5.2 million, earned just $210 billion in inflation-adjusted, 2011-value dollars.  But better-educated federal employees (with some advanced professional degree) earn less than their counterparts in the private sector.

Suppose you fired all federal workers – what would the savings do for the budget deficit? Click on today’s infographic to see it full size and find out. Then join the discussion thread below. With all the rhetoric you hear about government growth, does today’s fact surprise you? Weigh in.