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November 02, 2012 9:05 AM David Frum’s Strange Critique of Obama’s Record on Public Employment

By Keith Humphreys

In endorsing Mitt Romney for President, David Frum writes:

Obama is following a path explored by the British Labor governments of 1997-2010, when the majority of the net new jobs created in northern and western England, Scotland, and Wales were created in the public sector. That approach pushed Britain into fiscal crisis, when the recession abruptly cut the flow of funds from south-eastern England to pay everybody else’s government salary.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks governmental and private sector employment every month (data right here). In January 2009, seasonally adjusted public sector employment at all levels in the United States totalled 22,576,000. Under President Obama, it has fallen to 22,011,000 as of last month. Meanwhile, private sector employment increased over the same period from 110,985,000 to 111,744,000.

Whether it is good or bad to grow public sector jobs is a matter about which people can reasonably disagree. But lambasting a President for growing public sector jobs when in fact they have contracted on his watch is a departure from reality.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.