Big government under Obama? Not so much

The number of public sector jobs has shrunk by more than 700,000 on his watch. It grew by 1.75 million during George W. Bush's terms. Here's why.

By Aimee Picchi Apr 30, 2013 1:38PM

Washington, D.C. (© Bilderbuch/Design Pics/Corbis)While Democrats are thought to be proponents of "big government," some new data about public sector employment during President Barack Obama's tenure is shedding surprising light on the subject. 

Public sector jobs -- positions in federal, state and local government -- have declined by 718,000 jobs since Obama took office, according to the economics blog Calculated Risk

Under his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush, the number of public sector jobs swelled by 1.75 million, the blog found. 

There's a big caveat with the findings, though. Most of the public sector jobs lost during Obama's tenure are due to cutbacks at the state and local level, the study notes. While reductions in federal spending might have affected state and local employment, the decisions to reduce headcount would have been made at those local levels.

On the jobs front, that disparity in public sector employment has marked one of the contrasts between the recovery seen under Bush, who took office as the bursting of the dot-com bubble sparked a recession, and that of Obama, who took office as the Great Recession was leading to foreclosures and layoffs. 

As for private sector jobs, a net 665,000 were lost during Bush's two terms. The recovery has also been sluggish under Obama, but the country has added 2.28 million private-sector jobs since he took office, the report notes. Some big companies that are hiring include Oracle (ORCL), Dell (DELL) and (AMZN), Business Insider recently reported

The trend of fewer government jobs under Obama has been noted previously. According to a January 2012 piece in The New York Times by Floyd Norris, government employment has declined in only six years.

Those happened in 1981, 1982 and 1983 -- the first three years of the Reagan administration -- and in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Norris wrote. The more recent drops represent the first three years of the Obama administration and this trend has extended into 2012, according to Calculated Risk. 

While Obama might not be content with the public-sector job losses, it doesn't appear that big government is getting any bigger under his watch, at least when it comes to employment. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 

More on moneyNOW


Big Government is not only Gov't workers, it is also the Administration getting into people's business and taking away rights. 


Cut Gov't and put people to work building something in the private sector, not just taking taxes from those that do the actual work and giving benefits to Gov't workers beyond what the taxpayer gets for his labors. 

Apr 30, 2013 4:00PM
718,000 gov jobs cut - great!  But who cares, when 15 million were added to the food stamp rolls, or 7 million to the disability rolls?  The same games are constantly played with CPI and the UE numbers - take 3 million people off the UE rolls and put them on the disability rolls and poof, you've cut the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point.

As for Aimee Picchi, she writes another article every time the DNC releases another talking point.

Apr 30, 2013 4:54PM
And how much has welfare, food stamps, and spending gone up? 
Apr 30, 2013 2:49PM
Nice work Aimee - writing an article quoting statistics from a blogger....
Apr 30, 2013 11:05PM
This article author is clueless.

Massive government spending and budget deficits apparently don't count as big government.

Apr 30, 2013 2:06PM
47% paying ZERO taxes, 47 million on Food Stamps, almost 8 million LESS working today than when Obama took office, middle class wealth wiped out, especially in black and hispanic households, 6 million more disabled, debt increased by 6.8 trillion (total 17 trillion), deficits as far as the eye can see, multiple successful terror attacks on American soil, trying to make the Constitution null and void...  

I'd say Obama has been total and complete failure...  Marxist ideas usually fail...
Apr 30, 2013 5:44PM
Despite all the smoke and mirror articles on MSN, you better keep track of the fast track liberty busting and tax agenda in the Congress --- RIGHT NOW:

Your internet transactions are about to get sales taxed by all the states no matter what.  See "National Internet Tax Mandate, S. 743"

These are the senators who voted to stop the blocking effort on this (THEY SUPPORT THE TAX):

Alexander (R-TN)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN)
Cowan (D-MA)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Hirono (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)

Apr 30, 2013 5:12PM
Big government does not only mean public sector jobs. It also encompasses our civil liberties and Executive power. During Obama presidency there has been a steady decrease in liberty in the name of security. People no longer have habeas corpus (lost in Patriot act but continued under Obama). Obama has given new protections to large corporations (see Ag Gag bill and prosecution of whistle blowers). While claiming to serve the middle class and the poor he has overseen a period of increasing income inequality. Also the police are no longer required to read you your Miranda rights if it falls under the public safety exception and in New York have policies like "stop and frisk". Sounds to me Like Obama (like every other president) wants a bigger and more powerful government.
Apr 30, 2013 8:33PM
"Big Govt under Obama Not so Much"??? WTH are you saying?  The federal deficit has exceeded $1.4 trillion each year he's been in office----------THAT'S WHAT BIG GOVERNMENT IS. 
Apr 30, 2013 8:28PM
So, Obama added a few more jobs but his DEFICITS exceed those of all past presidents COMBINED.   Why don't you talk about that, Aimee.
Apr 30, 2013 2:31PM
Picchi your lack of research is embarrassing.  The fact our spending as a percentage of GDP exceeds forty percent for the first time since WWII.  And the fact our debt exceeded 100% of GDP for the first time since WWII proves Obama's failed government policies are consuming the economy.  In comparison, China who owns most of our debt is 4%.  I wonder why we keep falling behind China?
Apr 30, 2013 1:54PM
Why don't we add all the citizens trapped in or abusing Federal safety net programs........... then tell us how small it is dumb azz.
Apr 30, 2013 6:31PM

When the jobs are in your district, they're essential and need to be preserved.  When they are in some else's district, they're pork and need to be eliminated.  Even the most penny-pinching congressmen and senators will fight to keep federal jobs in their state.

Apr 30, 2013 2:45PM
When Companies refuse to pay a living Wage, more folks will qualify for Food Stamp Program. Meanwhile those same companies have reported years of Record Profits and Cash on Hand. The CEOs are seeing soaring income and benefits. On the other hand, real workers are seeing just the opposite. Less people working simply because Companies prefer to pay Slave Labor wages to folks overseas.

Meanwhile, the fake Cry of wealth distribution continues from low information voters while the wage gap has expanded for 40-1 to 400-1. There has been so much stealing by the poor and middle-class that soon, the already wealthy will move from the current 90 percent ownership of everything to 100 percent ownership of everything. The poor and the middle-class will own ZERO percent.
Apr 30, 2013 3:17PM
The actual wealth data for the United States for 2010 the most recent year available:

The top one(1) percent own 42% of the privately held financial assets.

The top five(5) percent own 72% of the privately held financial assets.

The top ten(10) percent own 80% of the privately held financial assets

The top twenty(20) percent own 95% of the privately held financial assets

The bottom eighty(80) percent own 5% of the privately held financial assets

The bottom forty(40) percent have virtually no financial assets.
Apr 30, 2013 5:33PM
Of course -- when the Federal government can print money, they can keep on hiring and centralizing power.  The states have to be responsible.

The day of reckoning for the treasoness federal child is coming.  They and the enabling lawmakers responsible will have to be spanked --- black and blue by the states; at whose leisure they exist to begin with.

Apr 30, 2013 3:16PM
The treasury expects to pay down 35 Billion worth of debts in the second quarter. Amazing what can happen when you cut spending while Tax Receipts expand.
Apr 30, 2013 8:35PM

Obama supporters are sickening as they distort the true story! Private sector jobs are down due to his Obama Care and other taxations! State & local government employment are down because they were just too damn big, local entities could not increase taxes in an age of declining earnings by the few of those employed. Seniors have seen their overall taxes go down because the Obama Federal Reserve has dropped their interest rates to near zero. The latter results in old people cutting their spending drastically so as to live on their reduced income. Savers do not spend income they do not have unless they have no alternative! Even with low interest rates, people with no jobs can not buy houses and spend! No spending equals a damn poor economy!

Answer : Cut federal taxes -get rid of the free ride by non-productive cronic unemployed and/or illegal immigrants, get rid of Obama Care, increase interest rates, reduce the head count of federal employees and the pay levels of those who remain (includes senators and rep.s), get rid of the czars Obama hired that could not even cope with the sequestor without trying to screw the tax payers!

Apr 30, 2013 3:59PM
A 2007 data chart shows the top 20 percent owning 80 percent. Unfortunately Wiki and several other sites like Forbes are still using that outdated data. More recent data has changed on several sites. Not shocking since the Stock market has move to what Level since 2007. Incomes have moved to what since 2007 and for whom.

It's bad when sites post info using outdated information. Check out Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power. This article shows the figure in 2010 already almost touching the top twenty percent owning 90 percent. Again, the Markets have soared along with Record Profits and incomes to the already wealthy. Now it 2013. Not hard to figure that figure has gone up, not down for the top twenty percent asset owners.

Apr 30, 2013 8:15PM
Big government is not always measured by how many public sector workers are added or lost. It's about the role of government. When ACA is fully implemented, we will see just how big government will get. Also, take a look at Obama' proposed budgets and you get a clue as to how big he wanted to grow government. But as the "summer of recovery" failed to go as planned, so did expected government revenues. That limited what Obama could do. Fortunately for us, Obama's budgets were rejected by both Democrats and Republicans. So you can say it is one of the few times we had true bipartisan agreement.
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