Since reliable data first became available shortly before World War II, the percentage of all employed people working for the federal government hit an all-time low in December.

An article at Business Insider picked up on the big picture trend, noting that the number of total government employees in the workforce was lower than it had been in a half-century. They had a version of this graph, showing that the declining number of government jobs in recent years has meant that a smaller and smaller percentage of the expanding workforce is comprised of government employees.


The last time the figure was this low was in the Eisenhower administration.

But that data breaks down into sub-groups: government employees at the federal, state, and local level. When you compare that to the overall national employee pool, you can see different sorts of movement. Local has dropped off quickly, state and federal less so. (The spikes on the federal line coincide with the Census.)


If you break out the data on federal employees (which goes back further than the other two), you see the point mentioned at the top of this post. Less than two percent -- 1.94 percent, to be precise -- of the total United States workforce is employed by the federal government. (The peak in the 1940s was World War II.)


This isn't all a function of recent political opposition to big government; the trend began in the 1950s. But it does run counter to a common perception of an ever-expanding bureaucratic state.