Public sector lags as private-sector jobs come back

  • Article by: ALANA SEMUELS
  • Los Angeles Times
  • January 12, 2013 - 9:23 PM

The private sector is slowly climbing its way back from the Great Recession, adding 155,000 jobs in December, but the public sector is continuing its long employment slide, making it the worst few years for government employees in recent memory.

That's a conclusion from a new report by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the University of Albany, which calculates that while private-sector employment is down 3.1 percent from its peak in January 2008 and on the rebound, state and local government employment is down 3.4 percent from its peak in August 2008 and continuing to slide.

State and local governments were slower to shed jobs than the private sector when the recession began -- after all, their revenues, which come in from taxes, do not follow economic trends in real time as revenues from private companies do.

However, once government jobs started to decline, they fell more consistently and for a longer period in this economic crisis than they have in any previous one, the report said.

About 60 months after the 2007 recession, state government employment is down 1.3 percent, it said. By contrast, state government employment 60 months after the 2001 recession was up 4.3 percent, and was up 18.3 percent after the 1973 recession.

That may be because "government jobs" became a much-maligned term after 2010 when a number of Tea Party candidates were voted into office and vowed to cut government pensions and salaries.

The cuts span across states and governments. New York had the largest decline in K-12 education jobs, California cut the most jobs in police protection and Texas slashed the most in hospitals and corrections, according to the Rockefeller Institute study.

Only states being fueled by an oil boom seem to be able to avoid drastic cuts, the report said. In Wyoming, state and local government employment is up 9.2 percent since August 2008, and in Alaska, it's up 3.8 percent.

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