Where in the federal government do the economists work?

by on January 17, 2011 at 8:11 am in Books, Economics, Political Science | Permalink

There has been so much talk lately about ethics and economists and now there is a whole new book out it, the new and useful The Economist's Oath: On the Need for and Content of Professional Economic Ethics, by George F. DeMartino.  I was intrigued and surprised by the p.24 chart about where economists (as defined by title, not Ph.d.) work in the federal government, not counting the Federal Reserve System.

1. Department of Labor, 1262 economists, 30.5 percent of the total, 1208 of those are at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2. Agriculture, 533 economists

3. Treasury, 473

4. Commerce, 462

5. Defense, 225

6. Energy, 168

7. EPA, 163 (is that enough?)

8. HHS, 137

9. Transportation, 88

10. Interior, 86

11. FTC, 74

12. HUD, 62

13. Justice, 61

14. FDIC, 61 (do bank examiners produce the real value there?)

15. All others, 275.  The total is 4130 economists in the Federal government, as of 2008, and I believe those numbers are not counting consultants.

Should we make them swear an oath not to act against the truths of their discipline for political gain?

1 Mike Hammock January 17, 2011 at 4:17 am

How do they define "economist" for this purpose? Does it have to do with education or job title, or both?

2 Some Random Economis January 17, 2011 at 4:43 am

For what it's worth, these numbers appear to count anyone with "economist" in their title. A large majority of the 1208 "economists" at the BLS have no graduate degree at all.

3 Bill Harshaw January 17, 2011 at 5:14 am

I'm pretty sure it would be any position classified as economist GS0110 job series. http://www.opm.gov/fedclass/gs0110.pdf

4 ThatsMeTrying January 17, 2011 at 5:37 am

Are we sure what the truths of our discipline are?

5 anon January 17, 2011 at 6:00 am

no, thats where they are employed.
where do they actually "work" ?
iow where do they produce something?

6 Jim January 17, 2011 at 6:19 am

>Should we make them swear an oath not to act against the truths of their discipline for political gain?

You mean, like the way we make the President swear an oath to uphold the Constitution? How's that working out?

There's no need. When you hear a Government economist saying what we need is more Government, you can safely chuckle and put it aside. That goes for Government-subsidized economists as well.

7 Carter January 17, 2011 at 7:00 am

Where are the Federal Reserve economists?

8 nazgulnarsil January 17, 2011 at 7:41 am

yes, the best way to set up systems is so that it requires unselfish angels in key positions to function correctly.

9 Hieronymus Goat January 17, 2011 at 8:37 am

Right, they must swear an oath to the Professors who taught them, against the sovereign people.

So this Democracy Without Politics, is ruled instead by Civil Servants, born in the discipline of the University, and sworn to uphold the Doctrines of the Economics, Psychology, and Cultural Studies Departments, with the Authority of a Law of Nature, or of God.

This is the sovereign result of the public postmodern philosophy, which declares that the people are free and equal, yet even the best require elite supervision enforced by supreme violence.

This is the philosophy which declares there is no God and that humans are a product of carnal genetics and tribal warfare, yet will excommunicate a discoverer of DNA for stating that scientific evidence shows Africans are less intelligent; because he violates the Universal Equality and Dignity of Man, His Independent Spirit, Who Are All Worthy of Salvation (Materially).

10 Max January 17, 2011 at 11:27 am

Well, Tyler, if it works half as good as letting politicians swear the oath to uphold and protect the constitution, I fear that swearing won't have a big effect (except perhaps that they will forget about half of what they learned instantly).

11 Hieronymus Goat January 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Right, the economists just prepare reports on the Keynesian, Hayekian, Voodoo, Malthusian, and Nazi theories.

Then the politician decides, who learned at the same schools, but prefers his own ignorance of economics, ridicule in the Press, and retirement, to the opinion of the scientific establishment.

12 Alex Chisholm January 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I'm surprised that the number is so small considering how many hits for 'Economist' come up when searching the USAJobs.gov database. For the visually inclined I made a simple mock-up of the above stats here – http://dynamicdatadisplay.com/2011/01/18/how-many…. You can really see how 5 agencies claim the majority.

13 Eric Rasmusen January 18, 2011 at 8:14 am

I was a government economist one summer. I'd just graduated from college and gotten an MA as well as a BA (since I took a year or so;s worth of PhD courses). That meant I was hired as an "economist" for my summer intern job at the National Center for Health Servcies Research. I don't think I actually did any economics. We were managing a giant health insurance survey, and my biggest contribution was writing sort of a manual for how to use the IBM mainframe. A couple of my bosses did have PhD's, but they were just getting the survey to work too.

14 Ryan Vann January 18, 2011 at 10:05 am


I recognize that you thought you were being funny,"

I thought he was rather successful.

15 Ryan Vann January 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

"or tu quoque fallacy."


"Some kind of genetic fallacy "


16 DKB @ NYU January 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Interesting that the BLS has more than Commerce, which I assume includes the BEA. Why so many more needed to produce labor data than national accounts?

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