David Leonhardt passes along this chart today, and it's one of the most important ones you'll see. It was my candidate for chart of the year in 2013.
What it shows is unprecedented: government employment fell during an economic recovery. This has never happened before in recent history. Employment rose during the Reagan recovery. It rose during the Clinton recovery. It rose during the Bush recovery. And that's one of the reasons those recoveries were fairly strong.
Only during the Obama recovery did austerity fever force government employment to fall. It's not the only reason this recovery has been so weak, but it's certainly one of the leading causes. More here.