Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graph from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The spike in "total employment" (including government) in early 2010 is presumably Census hiring. The pattern for the next few months was total employment going up while government employment was going down. And you can see the overall pattern, including what the trend was in 2008, how it changed in 2009, and also the worrisome very recent slide.
For discussion, see Media Matters and Greg Sargent. And related from our Derek Thompson.
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James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.