Federal Regulatory Jobs Outpace Private Sector

I just heard Cass Sunstein speak  on Obama’s attempt to trim unnecessary rules and reduce the burden on the private sector.  Yet here’s a fact: over the past year, employment at federal regulatory agencies has grown by more than 5%. By comparison, private sector jobs only rose by about 1.5% over the same period. That suggests regulatory intensity is still rising, even as the recovery lags.


A few details of the calculation are below the fold.

Calculations: Federal regulatory employment was based on data from the Office of Personnel Management.The agencies include:  Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Consumer Product Safety Commission; Employment Standards Administration; Environmental Protection Agency; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Federal Communications Commission; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Federal Trade Commission; Food and Drug Administration; Food Safety and Inspection Service; National Labor Relations Board; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Occupational Safety and Health Administration; Comptroller of the Currency; Patent and Trademark Office; Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; Securities and Exchange Commission. (Over the past year, the Employment Standards Administration started reporting employment data under its four separate subdivisions, so the number of agencies was 18 in March 2010 and 21 in March 2011). I left out the TSA –adding it in would have bumped up the number a bit). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does not yet show up separately in the March 2010 data. The number for total federal government employment comes from the BLS, using their adjustment for temporary census workers.


  1. You are showing one year, what happened in earlier periods.

    For all I know the number of regulators is massively below its level ten years ago.

    Moreover, one of the reasons we are in the mess we are in is the Bush policy of emasculating the regulatory agencies so they could not do their job. Their are counter arguments that we actually need more regulation, so an increase in regulators may be a good thing.

    • Mike Mandel says:

      Regulatory employment is up since 2000. I need to do a few more calculations to get strictly comparable numbers, but here’s some examples (March 2011 compared to September 2000).
      FDA up 33%
      SEC up 34%
      FTC up 16%
      FDIC up 17%
      EPA up 0.4%

  2. edumhokie says:

    Sorry to interject actual facts into this conversation, but the OPM data completely contradict your “Obama is Big Government” claims. First, comparing September 2008 (the closest period to when Obama took office) to the most current data (March 2011), the total Federal employment numbers went from 1,889,459 to 2,070,375. That’s a 0.95% increase. And most of the increase can be attributed to the Department of Defense, which accounted for 179,967 of the 180,916 increase. So under Obama the overall non-defense employment increased by less than 1,000 employees. Unless you consider the Department of Defense a “regulatory agency” that alone undercuts your premise. By comparison, in the 8 years that Bush was President (compare Spetember 2000 to September 2008), total Government employment increased by 191,706. So the Obama administration’s increases (which are small) are pretty much on par with Bush’s (also small).

    Yet you and the other conservative blatherers will continue to claim Obama has created “The Largest Increase in Government Employemnt in the history of Mankind, Blah, Blah, Blah.” I guess your numbers are just “not intended as a factual statment.” It’s the Republican way — don’t let those facts get in your way, just make sh!t up and put it in pretty charts. Nobody will actually check to see if it is correct and by the time they do you will be on to something else. If Palin runs I think you have a spot waiting on her communications team!

    • Dear “edumhokie” – you should check your arithmetic before you challenge someone else’s – just in case you’re wrong:

      (2,070,375 – 1,889,459)/1,889,459 = 0.09575

      That’s 9.575% increase from Sept. 2008 to Mar. 2011. If you’d like to annualize it, then that’s over a 2 and a half year period, or 3.7% per year rate. The total increase was 180,916 as you stated. To do a quickie sanity check, multiply it by 10 and you get 1,809,160, which is a little less than 10% of the base number of 1,889,459.

      I would just throw into the mix that total government employment is 22.5 million workers – that’s federal, state, and local. Much of the implementation of new federal programs gets delegated to the states and local governments to handle. Hence, they either increase the number of public workers, or they contract it out to private industry. The latter do not get counted as government workers.

      In 1950, there were 6 million total government workers, all levels. Our population was 152 million just about half of today’s 310 million. In other industries like manufacturing, there was a huge increase in productivity that allows manufacturing to produce 15% more goods today than in 1950, yet there are 4 times fewer workers. Government work is only services, and services were a little harder to automate, but that has come on strong in the past 30 decades. IMO there’s no excuse for having 22.5 million government workers today when we had 6 million in 1950. It was about 8.7 million in 1960. The huge jump came with the big federalization of welfare in the 1960s and following.

      Mark Michael

    • Note how being a leftist means one no longer has to have math skills.

      The only thought a leftist is capable of is projection, as edumhokie has demonstrated.

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