As employment has boomed in the US of late, more and more workers who had long ago given up looking for work have again entered the labor market, and found work. This growth in the supply of American workers has prevented wages and inflation from rising much, despite the greatly increased demand of the private sector for labor of all kinds. It’s been great. But with downward pressure of all sorts on immigration of all sorts, there is now serious worry that the former “reserve army of the unemployed” is approaching depletion, and that the supply of new labor is drying up; that the labor market is going to heat up enough to ignite significant demand led inflation, laying the groundwork for a recession.
Well, in the first place, if the economy is trying to produce more than she has the resources to produce efficiently, a recession is just what is needed. Or, at least, a slow down.
But, in the second, in 2013, the public sector in the US employed about 17.6% of the workforce. Or, should I say rather that the public sector “employed” about 17.6% of the workforce. Many of them do important work, to be sure: cops, soldiers, park rangers, teachers, scientists, and so forth – the people on the front line, as it were, and those who support them logistically (but not, mind, those who merely administer their activities). Let us estimate, generously, that such important public workers constitute half the public work force. The rest are supernumeraries, drones, spear carriers at the opera. They are beneficiaries of sinecures, doing work that does not need to be done.
The American labor force in January 2018 was roughly 160 million people altogether. If the ratio of public to overall employment has held more or less steady since 2013, then about 28 million people are now working government jobs. If half of those people were liberated from their “jobs,” well …