President Obama’s statement Friday that the private sector is “doing fine” drew so much ridicule that he was forced to backtrack hours later. But it’s clear that Obama and many other Democrats see job problems — and solutions — starting and stopping with government employment.

A quick look at payroll stats shows that’s not the case.

Private-sector jobs are still down by 4.6 million, or 4%, from January 2008, when overall employment peaked. Meanwhile government jobs are down just 407,000, or 1.8%. Federal employment actually is 225,000 jobs above its January 2008 level, an 11.4% increase. That’s right, up 11.4%.

Private payrolls have been trending higher in the last couple of years while government has been shedding staff. But that’s because governments did not cut jobs right away. Overall government employment didn’t peak until April 2009, 16 months after the recession started. It didn’t fall below their January 2008 level until September 2010.

The recession was boomtime for federal employment, especially after Obama took office. Federal jobs kept rising (excluding a temporary Census surge in early 2010) until March 2011 — more than three years after overall payrolls peaked.

Obama’s 2009 stimulus did little to revive private jobs, but did funnel massive funding to state and local governments. That, however, only delayed the day of reckoning for states and cities to curb spending. They finally did significantly slash jobs in 2010 and 2011. But those layoffs have slowed to a crawl in recent months — averaging less than 3,500 job cuts a month since November.

It’s easy to argue that Obama’s tunnel vision on government employment reflects his complete lack of experience in the business world. But it’s also mainstream Democratic thinking.

The Wisconsin recall election was about liberals’ zeal to maintain government employees’ privileges far and above those of struggling private sector workers who pay their salaries.

Payroll change since January 2008

Total: -5.01 million  -3.6%

Private: -4.61 million  -4%

Government: -407,000  -1.8%

Federal Government: (excluding post office) +225,000  11.4%

Sources: Labor Department, Datastream