Was Texas jobs expansion due to government growth?

In response to Rick Perry’s claim of near-miraculous job growth in Texas during the last decade, critics have alleged that the job growth came from public-sector hiring.  Over a quarter of a million net new jobs in Texas over the last ten years came in the public sector, and Perry’s opponents accuse him of hypocrisy in espousing his jobs record and small-government conservatism. The Washington Post offers the critical argument (via Poor Richard’s News):

With a young and fast-growing population, a large and expanding military presence and an influx of federal stimulus money, the number of government jobs in Texas has grown at more than double the rate of private-sector employment during Perry’s tenure.

The disparity has grown sharper since the national recession hit. Between December 2007 and last June, private-sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6 percent while public-sector jobs increased by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, government employees account for about one-sixth of the workforce in Texas.

That sounds pretty bad, but it comes from a distinctly selective reading of statistics.  The Post confuses the issue by comparing data over a decade and then in a 3-year period, for one thing, and using percentages without explaining base numbers.  CNS News puts the statistics in perspective:

Between December 2000 when Perry became governor (replacing George W. Bush who had been elected president) and July 2011, the latest month on record, the number of nonfarm civilian employees in Texas grew from approximately 9,563,500 to 10,619,800, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That means approximately 1,056,300 new nonfarm civilian jobs have been created in Texas during the time Perry has been governor.

That contrasts with a national decline in jobs of approximately 1,295,000 during the same period, according to BLS data.

Of the 1,056,300 new nonfarm civilian jobs created in Texas since December 2000, according to the BLS, 280,400 have been government jobs (including local, state and federal jobs) and 775,900 have been private-sector jobs. That means 73.5 percent of the new jobs created in Texas since Perry became governor have been private-sector jobs.

Meanwhile, from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census, according to theCensus Bureau, the population of Texas grew from 20,851,818 to 25,145,561. The 1,574,700 civilian government workers in Texas in December 2000 (as reported by BLS) equaled one government worker for every 13.2417 people in the state. The 1,855,100 civilian government workers in Texas in July 2011 equaled one government worker for every 13.5548 people in the state.

That means the number of people per government worker in Texas has increased by about a third of a person (0.313) since Perry became governor.

Texas attracted more people to its state than any other over that decade.  In fact, in the last reapportionment, Texas won four new Congressional seats, a large jump upward.  The state grew by more than 4 million people (representing an expansion of 20.5%.  It’s not terribly surprising to see public-sector jobs increase as the result of such a large shift in population. The need to expand the public sector pretty obviously came in response to the migration to Texas, while the relatively robust economy and investment environment attracted the migration in the first place.

In the end, the number of government jobs created accounts for a relatively low 6.5% of the increase, and less than 28% of the new jobs — during a period when the federal government was going on a hiring binge, thanks to Porkulus.  The ratio of public-sector employees to population declined slightly overall.  That may not have been fast enough for small-government activists, but it went in the right direction — and in the opposite direction that Perry’s critics claim.