Even as the total number of federal employees rises, the ratio of employees to Americans has declined steadily, from one employee for every 78 residents in 1953 to one employee for every 110 residents in 1988 to one employee for every 155 residents in 2008.
Mr. Obama is in a situation similar to that of Mr. Clinton, who took office when the budget deficit was at a record high and government bureaucracy was expanding, even though the Pentagon was shedding workers with the end of the Cold War.
Mr. Obama, though, appears to be accepting a larger federal work force.
The administration has called for federal workers to get a 1.4 percent pay raise next year, which Mr. Orszag said, “frankly, I think to a lot of Americans, sounds pretty good.”
The American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents many government workers, said it was combing through the budget and did not have a comment.