The Conservative Myth That Most New Jobs Are in Government

A US Postal Service worker sorts paperwork.
A U.S. Postal Service worker sorts paperwork in December 2011 in San Francisco

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The conservative world’s abuse of facts continues. An often-repeated line from the Romney campaign was that government doesn’t create jobs—only the private sector creates jobs. But now they have replaced that job-creation myth with the opposite one. Conservative websites and commentators are saying that almost all jobs created in the past five months have been government jobs.

The claim being made—that 73 percent of all new jobs in the past five months are in government—was first reported on the conservative website CNS.com and soon made its way over to the fact-deficient folks at Fox News, where it was repeated by a Republican congressman, Pennsylvania’s Tim Murphy:  

Over the last five months, when you look at the upward swing now, the improvement in people being hired, in employment rate, 73 percent—according to the Department of Labor—73 percent of those new jobs is federal government, state government, and local government. We want to see it in the private sector.

While it’s nice to see some on the right finally acknowledging that the government is capable of creating jobs, this 73 percent number signifies nothing. Yes, the number is accurate. In the past five months 847,000 jobs have been created, and 621,000 of those were government jobs.

However, the reason they’re only tracking the past five months is because if they started in January, they’d see that government jobs are actually down for the year. And it’s actually government workers who have been most affected by the recession, because state and local governments have been forced to lay off workers in order to balance budgets.

Here are some real numbers: Since President Obama took office in January 2009, the number of government jobs has dropped by 678,000, while the number of private-sector jobs has increased by nearly 1.5 million.