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Posted by Tim Bryce on March 13, 2012

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We often tout America as “the land of opportunity” but I started to wonder how many people truly work for a commercial business, be it large or small. You know, the real people responsible for the Gross Domestic Product, our exports, and our quality of life. When you think about it, these are the people who support everyone else, not just in terms of the lion’s share of taxes, but without them, there would be no need for government or anything else. Wanting to know the answer, I recently researched some statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau and was struck by the projected 2012 figure for the U.S. population which is now at 313M people, more than double since I was born. It’s interesting how the Census Bureau assembles the population data every ten years but you cannot help but wonder how accurate it is. After all, there is allegedly over 13M illegal aliens in this country, and I do not believe they are included in the population total. Nonetheless, I began to wonder how the 313M occupied their time and, consequently, I visited the web sites for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to see what I could find.

First, I wanted to know how many people worked for the government in one capacity or another, be it at the federal state of local level. Here is what I found:

Federal Government Employees – 4.4M
State Government Employees – 5.3M
Local Government Employees – 14.2M
Government Employees Total – 23.2M – 7.4% of the populace.

This struck me as a rather high number, but I was somewhat surprised to see there were more people employed at the local level than both the federal and state levels combined.

Next, I considered the number of people who were not working, either due to unemployment, retirement, disability, or stay-at-home spouses. Finding the number of unemployed was rather easy, finding retirees and disabilities was a little trickier, so I checked on statistics at the U.S. Social Security Administration. As to spouses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was helpful.

Unemployed – 13.7M
Retired or receiving disability – 61.0M
Families with one spouse working – 9.7M
People not working – 84.4M – 26.9% of the populace

Adding the 23.2M government employees to the 84.4M “not working” comes to a total of 107.6 million or 34.3% of the populace.

When you subtract the 107.6M people from the original 313M number from the U.S. Census Bureau, you arrive at a number of 205.4M people working for private enterprises or 65.6% of the populace. This isn’t quite accurate as there are also millions of people working for 501(c) corporations, such as charities, churches, and other non-profit institutions. Of course, there are also those involved with criminal activities, either actively or imprisoned, which the Census Bureau would have trouble keeping track of. Suffice it to say, there is at least 50% of the populace working for a commercial business and is shouldering the tax load for the rest of the country, including the 13M illegal aliens.

I wonder how this number compares to years past? I can’t help but believe the percentage of people working in business was higher back in the 1950’s when business was booming following the end of WWII, and government was smaller. Since then, federal spending has doubled, as has the federal debt and deficit which have skyrocketed. Regardless, the shrinking rate of people in business also signals a decline in entrepreneurship in this country which should be of concern to all of us as this represents the innovators, inventors, and captains of industry who have traditionally invigorated this country. Without them, the nation would likely become nothing more than a third class country.

No wonder people are getting mad. Like me, they’ve added up the numbers and don’t like what they see; one half of the country is giving, and the other half is taking and not paying taxes. I wonder what will happen when the balance tips from giving to taking?

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

5 Responses to “WHO IS BEARING THE LOAD?”

  1. Jenn said

    It is appalling to think of how many are not working of their own free will, not due to circumstances beyond their control. I would make an exception for the stay at home Mom’s because while not driving in a paycheck per se, they do indeed WORK and they get little monetary compensation in return. Other than that? The next step is to look at why people are NOT working. From my standpoint…allowing too many corporations to move their companies or part of their operations to foreign soil. Bring the jobs back and people will go to work. I have ideas on this subject in particular that should be explored…but no idea where to start with them.

    Cheers, Jenn.


  2. Tim Casey said

    But I thought unemployment was only 8.2%, it’s all a numbers game isn’t it.


  3. Tim Bryce said

    Actually it was 8.3% which was unchanged from the previous reporting cycle. Gallup has it at 9.5%.


  4. Pam Mcaloon said

    The labor force has also contracted factoring in the people who have given up looking for a job..


  5. Tim Bryce said

    An A.D. of Edmonton, Alberta wrote…

    “This has long been of interest to me here in Canada as well as the USA… I must honestly say that I thought the USA was doing better than good ol’ socialist Canada… but I see that it is not. This perilous position puts both these nations in the same jeopardy as many Empires throughout history and that is quite simply that the Empire (nation) will (and has many times before) collapsed when the working stiffs could no longer support the laggards! I am moving from this stumbling nation to Mexico to enjoy my retirement… my hopes are to have my money (what’s left) outlive myself and to be in a place with no welfare to speak of, a perfect climate and without a populace that has completely misconstrued health care with hypochondria treatment… You better hope that ‘Obamacare’ goes away or I can guarantee those they expect to pay for it will leave as well. I understand that the exodus from the USA is staggering as it is here.”

    A D.B. of Clearwater, Florida wrote…

    “Amen. Also it seems like a great many of the public sector employees are at best semi incompetent and don’t care when they give you an idiotic response on the phone or otherwise screw up because they know it is almost impossible for them to be fired.”

    A J.P. of Toronto, Ontario wrote…

    “I have always been of the opinion that the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, ‘wealth’ if you will, is the product of a syymbiotic relationship between public empoloyees in totality and private sector workers in totality. Each needs the other to function, and neither can function independently of the other. I have also long been of the opinion that inefficiency is mainly a function not of public or private but, rather, of size. Government is often inefficient because it operates on a large scale, but the same inefficiencies also asise with large private organizations as well. Two of the great popular errors of our time are that, ‘There is no difference between managing the USA and balancing our family budget,’ and that ‘Goverernment produces no wealth and is entirely parasitic on the private sector.’

    I have often wondered how candidates for public office have reconciled the promises to shrink government dramatically on the one one hand and increase employment on the other, given the largest employer in the country, in total, is government. We should also keep in mind that ‘government,’ especially local government as you point out, includes most of the services closest to our daily lives – law and order, maintenance of the infrastructure, education, public health, and so on to complete a very long list.”

    An E.C. of St. Petersburg, Florida wrote…

    “Excellent article. More people that are paying, need to read this.”

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “An interesting and sobering perspective. There are so many contributing factors at work. With business booming in the 50s, most families managed financially with more children and only one paycheck. As I recall, the 50s also offered many more people employed as clergy and other religious vocations. Over time, culture and priorities changed, reducing numbers of single income families, large families, self-employed and religious vocations. Charity hospitals closed in large numbers in the 80s, due to reduced religious staff and increased malpractice lawsuits. More government dollars were needed to make up the shortfall and new government restrictions and laws built the government bigger.

    Maybe it sounds simplistic, but I think if we had a lot more religious vocations and a lot less lawyers, we’d be a kinder, gentler culture with a much smaller government. Just sayin’……”


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