As federal, state and local programs, agencies and bureaucracies grow, so too do the employees at the various levels of government. In 1950, the population of the U.S. was 152 million, according to U.S. census data compiled by Data360. In 2006, the population was 301 million or about double. In 1950, the total government civilian workforce was 6.4 million, or a ratio of 1 government worker to 24 people. In 2006, the total government workforce had grown to almost 20 million, a threefold increase and a ratio of 1 worker per 15 people. The government employee growth rate of 1.5 times the growth rate of the population has occurred despite the efficiencies of computerization and communication and reveals the ever larger presence that government plays in our lives.
With about half of the population of working age, the ratio of 15 people to 1 government civilian worker means that about 7 people support each worker. The Census Bureau estimates the U.S. population at 367 million in 2030, an increase of 22%. If the government workforce increases at the same 1.5 times the population growth rate, government employees will total more than 26 million in 2030, so that it will take one government worker to service 14 people.
What does not appear in the government employee totals is the increase in outsourcing of tasks that used to be done by government employees, a pattern that clearly emerged by 2000. From 1996 to 2006, there was little change in the number of government employees. Some of this was due to computerization but we can only guess at the number of federal, state and local jobs that were outsourced to private companies. What is the true ratio of population to government worker? Perhaps 13 to 1?
Some people and politicians clamor for more programs, more regulation, and more in general from government. When is it enough?