Legend has it that government jobs are more stable than private sector jobs. One way to investigate this is to use data on layoffs. The graph shows the layoff rate (as a proportion of current employees) for the economy as a whole (in blue), for the private sector (in red), and for all levels of government (in green). Indeed, the public layoff rate is significantly lower. Also, it was barely affected during the previous recession, while there was a strong spike in layoffs for private business. Note, though, that there was an uptick in government job layoffs right at the end of the recession: This reflects mainly non-federal entities who felt budget pressure to reduce their workforces. But what happened in June/July 2010? Is this evidence of a major wave of government layoffs? Actually, this spike is related to the census: All federal/public employment data series have these blips every ten years when the substantial workforce necessary to conduct the decennial census departs from federal payrolls.
How this graph was created: The Job Openings and Labor Turnover release has a lot of relevant data, in particular in the form of release tables. Navigate it, check the series you want, then click on “Add to Graph.”
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.