If you live anywhere in the United States, your town probably has a mayor and your state certainly has a governor. You likely know a police officer or two and are familiar with your congressman's name. And your kids, almost certainly, go to public schools that employ teachers.
Guess what: All of those positions — from police officer to public-school teacher — are government jobs. So, to the question of whether the government creates jobs, the answer is a resounding yes.
Number of Government Jobs
The number of government jobs in the United States stands at about 22 million, or about 7 for every 100 people. The includes government workers at the local, state and federal levels. Government jobs tend to pay well, but the portion of Americans who work in the public sector is declining.
Most public employees in the United States work in state and local government jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In March 2011, for example, 16.4 million or roughly three-quarters of government jobs were at the local and state level.
Who Pays for Government Jobs
The operation of government is paid for by American taxpayers. For example, states levy income taxes to pay for the hiring of road crews, many local school districts impose property taxes on homeowners to pay for their operations. And of course, the federal government levies an income tax on workers to pay for its operation.
Types of Government Jobs
The largest segment of government jobs is in education. There are about 8.9 million Americans working in public schools, according to the Census Bureau.
See also: The Best Government Jobs
There are also many government jobs in the health care, public safety and corrections sectors. Census data show there are about 964,000 government jobs in hospitals, 924,000 in police departments, and 718,000 in America's prisons.
Issue in Election 2012
The question of whether the government creates jobs was an important issue in the 2012 presidential election. Both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney falsely claimed that the government does not create jobs.
"Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs," Romney second during the second of three presidential debates in 2012.
Obama agreed with Romney, saying: "I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this nation that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That's not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known."
Government Role in Job Creation
Republicans and Democrats typically disagree on the government's role in creating jobs in the private sector.
Most Republicans favor eliminating or reducing the impact of federal regulations on American businesses, and reducing corporate income taxes. They believe such policies foster job creation in the private sector. Democrats disagree, saying regulations are important to public health and reducing taxes on big corporations rarely leads to job creation.
In the 2012 election, Obama said that government can foster an environment that is friendly to private-sector job creation, and that small businesses rely on some government services to survive. His use of the phrase "You didn't build that" when speaking of small business owners and their firms generated a lot of controversy during the 2012 presidential election.
Decline in Government Jobs
One area of agreement between Republicans and Democrats is the need to reduce the cost of government and increase its efficiency. The issue is an important one given the size of the national debt.
Local and state government reduced the number of workers from 2010 to 2011, according to census data. Counties, cities, townships and school districts had 12 million full-time workers in 2011, down 204,781. And state governments had 4.4 million full-time employees in 2011, down slightly from a year earlier. Most of the reduction in state workers was in public education.