The president was drawing attention to the fact that, after enormous job losses during the last recession (and “recovery”), the private sector has recently begun hiring again; meanwhile, after a long period of explosive growth, state and local governments have finally begun cutting back.
To see the numbers behind President Obama’s statement, we looked at Household Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, finding that four out of five jobs lost since the beginning of the last recession in December 2007 are private sector jobs; the public sector accounts for only one in five lost jobs.
But the BLS also collects employment data another way: through its Current Employment Statistics. According to the CES Establishment Data, as of May 2012, there were about 133 million total non-farm jobs in the U.S., a decline of nearly 5 million since the recession began.
“Private” and “Government” jobs together now total 132.369 million jobs, a loss of 5.6 million since the recession began. Of these, 5.2 million are in the private sector; the public sector accounts for just 407,000. To put that in perspective, for every government job lost, about 13 private sector jobs have been lost.
In percentage terms, while we have lost 4.5 percent of private-sector jobs, the government has shed just 1.8 percent of jobs. Far from “doing fine,” these numbers indicate that the private sector is doing much worse than the public sector.
The Federal Reserve Board reported this month that, after adjusting for inflation, the median family’s net worth has dropped by nearly 39 percent since 2007 – back to 1992 levels. Rather than further burdening American taxpayers with higher taxes to support the bloated government payrolls of 2007, perhaps Obama should focus on cutting government back to 1992 levels. This would not constitute “austerity” – the Clinton era was anything but austere – but simply living within our diminished means.
In 1992, government at all levels employed 18.164 million people, compared to 21.969 million today. Paring back to 1992 levels means shedding another 3.8 million bureaucrats. Cutting spending and taxes back to 1992 levels means, on the federal level, cutting taxes nearly 30 percent, while cutting spending more than 40 percent. That would reduce the deficit a whopping 65 percent.
These cuts would inject into the private sector $622 billion that would otherwise have been taxed away, and release another $732 billion that the government would otherwise have borrowed, amounting to a “stimulus” of more than $1.3 trillion – enough to hire all 16.5 million (12.7 million currently unemployed plus 3.8 million former bureaucrats) at $82,000 per year — while reducing, rather than increasing, the deficit.