Decline in State Government Employment Levels off

There are 21.8 million government employees—federal, state and local—which make up 16 percent of total, non-farm employment.

The majority of those employees work for local government, while state employees and federal employees make up about a third of total government employment combined. The share of total employment that government employees make up has remained fairly stable over the last 50 years or so, ranging from a low of around 15.7 percent in 1999 to a high of 19.4 percent in 1975.

The Great Recession had a significant impact on government employment, particularly state and local employment. For more than three years, state and local employment fell.  State government employment reached a peak level in the middle of the Great Recession, hitting just above 5.2 million employees in August of 2008. From a peak level of employment in 2008 to its lowest point in July 2013, state governments lost more than 150,000 jobs. Since July, however, state government employment job losses have leveled off, as 35,000 jobs were added between July and October 2013.

Author’s calculations of data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment, Hours and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National),