I Admit It, I Panicked
I’m usually a rather optimistic person. But yesterday, I thought I saw a sign of the apocalypse and panicked. The usually insightful Coyote Blog posted a chart that I interpreted as saying that the number of people on government payrolls was now larger than the number of people on private payrolls in the US. Such a crossover would be a very bad indicator.
Luckily, I slept on it before posting. I realized from my background knowledge that this fact was unlikely to be true, so I followed the links to the ultimate source. You see, I thought “Goods Producing” was in contrast to “Government” in the chart label, i.e., that the categories were collectively exhaustive. No. According to the original post at NRO, “Goods producing”=construction, manufacturing, mining and agriculture. Well, duh. Our employment in those sectors has been gradually decreasing as they become extremely efficient. Unsurprisingly, government efficiency has not been increasing as fast.
I went to the BLS database and looked up the right statistic. In Jan 1939, private employment was 25,935,000 and government employment was 3,988,000 for a ratio of 6.50. In Dec 2009, projected private employment was 108,443,000 and projected government employment was 22,467,000 for a ratio of 4.83. This is still a relative increase in government employment, which I don’t like, but far from a sign of the apocalypse. A clear indication that private enterprise is more efficient than public enterprise, but I already knew that.