06 January 2010

There Are Now More Government Employees than Goods-Producing Workers in the US

For the first time there are decidedly more government employees than goods-producing (manufacturing) employees in the US according to the Department of Labor.

This chart is from The Mess That Greenspan Made here.

It is interesting to think about this in terms of health care, pension plans, job security, employee loyalty, and so forth.

The reason for this is not the growth of government jobs but rather the drastic shrinkage in US based manufacturing employment while government employment remains resilient. As a percent of the population, the number of government employees is now about 9% which is slightly lower than it was in the 1970's.

The Service sector dominates. There is a nice chart showing goods-producing, government, service, and non-employed percentages from EconomPicData here.

US corporations have been offshoring jobs for many years, in part due to the structural problems of benefits and environmental costs in a developed nation and Asian mercantilism. Some of this transfer of employee is due to natural market forces, but a great deal of it is a result of purposeful national policy and trade practices such as currency pegs, for example.

As Adam Smith observed in Wealth of Nations (1776):

"To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising ... customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers."
In this case if one substitutes "kleptocrats" for "shopkeepers" and "dollar debt slaves" for "customers" then the quotation may fit the current situation in the US and its reserve currency empire quite well. It also helps to explain the steady role of the government bureaucracy in administering this paper empire, as well as the outsized financial sector.

But one underestimates the resilience of a free people at their peril, as did Napoleon dismissing the English, echoing Smith, "L'Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers," prior, of course, to his Waterloo in June, 1815.