How Much Government: The Math

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How Much Government: The Math

In my latest post, “How Much Government Do We Really Have?“, I talked about the dangers of having such a large number of people employed by government. Here are the sources and calculations I used in my research for that article. All of my data is publicly-available and government-provided.

2013 Total U.S. Population: 316,128,839

This comes directly from the Census Bureau. Here is the relevant page. Since the census is only taken every 10 years, most recently in 2010, numbers for 2013 are inherently an estimate. I used their number for July 1, 2013. I found the population of Delaware on the same page by selecting “Delaware” from the “Geography” drop-down menu just above the table. I used the same process to get the populations of other states.

2013 Working-Age Population: 197,838,893

This data comes from the same page as above. I simply subtracted the figures for “Under 18” and “65 years and over” from the Census Bureau’s total. (316,128,839 – 73,585,872 – 44,704,074 = 197,838,893)

Divide this number by the total population to find the percent of our country in the working-age range. (197,838,893 / 316,128,839 = 62.58%)

2013 Employees Working Full-Time: 117,091,333

This is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau provides monthly statistics on employment here, on table A-8 of each report. The Bureau “seasonally-adjusts” the numbers to factor out an apparent uptick in employment in December (for example) when the real story is that the people who sell Christmas trees started work and those jobs will disappear in a month, thus, not reflective of permanent full-time employment. Since their adjustment process is obscure, I simply averaged each month together, which is a simpler way of accounting for seasonal employment.

The average number of people working in any capacity for 2013 was 143,929,167. The Bureau included part-time workers in this total, but noted how many there were. The average number of part-time workers in 2013 was 26,837,833. Subtracting that from the total yields the number of full-time workers. I assume they were of working-age. (143,929,167 – 26,837,833 = 117,091,333).

Dividing the number of full-time workers by all workers gives the percent of people with jobs who worked full-time. (117,091,333 / 143,929,167 = 81.35%)

2013 Federal Government Employees: 3,556,962

This figure was difficult to find. It represents two groups: civilian employees and military employees.

The most recent data on civilian employment is from 2012, provided by the Census Bureau. They estimated that there were 2,568,433 full-time civilian employees. I then subtracted employees of the USPS from this estimate because the USPS pays its workers’ salaries with revenue from stamps and other products, not federal funding. The number of full-time USPS employees, 491,736, comes from the same table. (2,568,433 – 491,736 = 2,076,697).

To adjust to 2013, I  assumed federal employment grew in line with the growth of the overall population. The Census Bureau estimated here that the total US population in 2012 was 313,873,685. Dividing the 2013 total population by the 2012 total population shows that the percent growth from 2012 to 2013 was 0.72% (316,128,839 / 313,873,685 = 1.007185).

Multiplying the 2012 civilian employment figure by the overall 2012-2013 growth rate yielded 2013’s civilian employment estimate. (2,076,697 * 1.007185 = 2,091,618)

Data on military employment also comes from the Census Bureau, but only as recent as 2010. It can be found here in the “Department of Defense Personnel” table. I assumed all military personnel to be full-time. They counted 1,431,000 employees.

To adjust this number to 2013, I followed the same process as for civilian employment. The Census Bureau records here that the population grew 2.4% from 2010 to 2013. (1,431,000 * 1.024 = 1,465,344).

I looked for military employment data that would be more accurate than the latest census, but the DoD informed me that publishing that information online would violate NSA security protocols. When I asked the NSA about what these protocols might be, first it asked why I would ask in the first place, then it pressured me to ask a different department, then suggested it might be a DoD policy and not NSA. Finally, the NSA said: “I don’t know what the person [from DoD] had in mind or whether you correctly understood what the person may have said.” “Because of NSA security protocols” is plain English and a direct quote from the man from DoD.

Adding civilian and military employment (adjusted to 2013) together yields total 2013 federal employment. (2,091,618 + 1,465,344 = 3,556,962)

Dividing this number by the total 2013 population gives the percent of the entire US population working for the federal government. (3,556,962 / 316,128,839 = 1.125%)

Dividing total full-time federal employment by the 2013 full-time working-age population shows how what portion of the labor force is absorbed by the federal government. (3,556,839 / 117,091,333 = 3.04%)

2013 State and Local Government Employees: 13,883,844

This estimate uses the same data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited earlier. The Bureau counted the number of people employed in “Government”, which for their purposes, was strictly civilian, included part- and full-time employees, and counted people working for all levels of government. That total figure, averaged across 2013 as before, is 20,246,750.

Multiplying the total number of government employees by the full-time ratio yields the number of full-time civilian employees of any US government. (20,246,750 * 81.35% = 16,470,731)

Subtracting the total number of federal civilian employees from the total above leaves the number of full-time state and local government employees. Since the BLS gives no indication of excluding USPS workers from the “Government” category, USPS workers should also be subtracted out (as I did not count them in my total of federal civilian employees). This requires re-computing the number of 2013 federal civilian employees.

To recompute, I simply took the number of total federal civilian employees in 2012 from the Census Bureau without excluding the USPS and multiplied by the rate of population growth from 2012 to 2013. (2,568,433 * 1.007185 = 2,586,887)

Finally, this figure can be subtracted from the total number of full-time civilians working for any US government to find the number of full-time employees of state and local governments. (16,470,731 – 2,586,887 = 13,883,844).

Dividing this total by the total 2013 population gives the percent of the entire US population working for state and local governments. (13,883,844 / 316,128,839 = 4.39%)

Dividing total full-time state and local employment by the 2013 full-time working-age population shows what portion of the labor force is absorbed by state and local governments. (13,883,844 / 117,091,333 = 11.86%)

2013 Total Full-Time Government Employment: 17,440,806

This is simply the sum of the 2013 full-time federal workforce and the 2013 full-time state and local workforce. (3,556,962 + 13,883,844 = 17,440,806)

Dividing this by the total 2013 population gives the percent of the entire US population working for a government. (17,440,806 / 316,128,839 = 5.517%)

Dividing the total full-time government workforce by the 2013 full-time working-age population shows what portion of the labor force is absorbed by all US governments. (17,440,806 / 117,091,333 = 14.90%)

Photo used under Flickr Creative Commons.

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Matheson Russell is the Financial Analyst for Marotta Wealth Management. He specializes in tax laws, forms, policy, and planning. He loves complex rules systems, animals, and Koine Greek. His favorite stories are The Jungle Books.