Here, FRED shows us the total number of U.S. federal government employees over time. Take a minute to examine the graph… For one thing, it sure is spikey. The highest level was during World War II, and the next highest was during the war in Korea. Clearly, war has driven this type of employment. There are also short spikes every ten years, which correspond to temporary hires for the census, including the spike in April 2009. Overall, these spikes have grown as the U.S. population has grown. What may be surprising is that there hasn’t been any significant upward trend, despite substantial population growth—in fact, the U.S. population has more than doubled over this period.
The graph below shows state and local government employment, and the story here is quite different: Except during the recent recessions, both these have grown steadily, despite the fact their growth isn’t affected by wars or the census.
How these graphs were created: Look for the Current Employment Statistics (Establishment Data) releases and select Table B-1. Choose “Federal, except U.S. Postal Service” for the first graph. For the second graph, select the three series shown and add them to the graph.
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.