Thanks Obama (for shrinking the size of the federal government)
In this clip with Gwen Ifill, Obama claimed that the federal government has fewer employees now than under Reagan. That seems hard to believe given the narrative that Reagan was all about small government and Obama is all about big government and ruining the economy (Thanks Obama). Turns out it’s actually true though. You can get the raw data here and see for yourself.
In terms of total number of employees, this topped out in 1968 at 6.639 million largely due to the increase in the size of the military during the Vietnam War. If we only consider from 1977 on (Carter through Obama), the largest number of employees in the federal government was 5.301 million in 1987. The next 3 years in the Carter to Obama window with the most federal employees were 1989, 1988, and 1985.
If we want to ignore the size of the military and look only at the size of the executive branch, the five years with the largest federal government employment since 1962 are 1990, 1989, 1988, 1991, and 1969.
If we look at the size of the legislative and judicial branch, which makes up a very small percentage of the total number of employees, these numbers were highest in 2009, 2002, 1993, and 1992 all with about 66,000 employees.