Stories

The federal workforce hasn't grown much in the last 50 years

The Trump administration is telling federal agencies to get smaller and more streamlined. But the size of the federal workforce has remained relatively stable since the late 90s and is a relatively small slice of total government employment. Here's how federal government employment compares to the local and state-level, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics

About 22.3 million Americans are employed in the government sector. The federal government employs about 2.8 million people, roughly a tenth of the totall. The majority of government workers are employed at the local and state level and a large part of that employment is education-related. Between 1970 and 2017, local and state government employment has doubled, while federal employment has remained about the same.

  • See those small spikes in federal employment? Those are temporary employees hired for the census. In 2010, 635 thousand people were hired as enumerators, up from 550 thousand in 2000.
  • The Postal Service makes up a sizable but shrinking part of total federal employment. The number of postal employees shrunk by about 100 thousand while the rest of the government grew by roughly the same amount.
  • This data excludes military personnel, as well as employees of the intelligence community, but that number has also shrunk. According to the Office of Personnel Management, there were 3.1 million uniformed military personnel in 1970, and 1.4 million in 2014.