Centralization 

Government Civilian Employees as Percentage of Civilian Labor Force 1908-1984

The table below presents another common "index" of the size of government, based on the idea of "employment share." The series below captures public sector employment share by measuring Government Civilian Employees as a percentage of Civilian Labor Force (1908-1984). 

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Federal outlays

Employment share

IMF data

Power Shift

Summary

Why this measure?

Source: Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, 1991 p. 25.

Government Civilian Employees as Percentage of Civilian Labor Force 1984-2020

The table below presents an updated rendering of the Higgs chart above. The data was retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civilian Labor Force Level. 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civilian Labor Force Level, retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Government Staffing and Employment: 

As the chart below illustrates, there is a dramatic difference between the number of employees marked as full-time equivalent (FTE) at the federal level and the number of employees marked as FTE at the state level. While the federal civilian workforce has not expanded significantly, since 1952, the number of state-and local-government employees has tripled to nearly 19 million. Analysts do not all agree on the cause. Some have attributed this remarkable growth at the state level to the increase in federal aid to states. To learn more, users may want to examine the inflation-adjusted value of federal grants to states. Readers may also want to consider the increase in federal spending on for-profit contractors and nonprofit organizations, both of which can sometimes mask the true size of the civilian workforce employed indirectly by the federal government. For updated statistics, and for analysis of methodology, see Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB, 2020: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43590.pdf.