Hopes were not high today for this month’s jobs report after the economy appeared to net exactly zero jobs in August. While the numbers beat expectations, the story behind them reveals a pervasive trend in public sector job loss that Republicans seem committed to ignoring.
In August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the private sector added 17,000 jobs, but the public sector lost the exact same number (those numbers have since been revised). This month, the private sector created 137,000 jobs, but the public sector continued to hemorrhage jobs, losing 34,000. As Matt Yglesias notes, “month after month we see a labor market that’s basically treading water primarily because government employment is shrinking rather than keeping pace with population growth.”
Political Correction charted the plummeting public sector growth next to the steady rise in private sector jobs over the past two years. While the private sector marked a net gain of 1.4 million jobs, budget cuts have eliminated 572,000 government jobs. If governments maintained the same employment rate since 2009, “the economy would have grown by about 2 million jobs”:
This trend of public job depletion puts the Republican jobs agenda in stark contrast with the administration’s approach. President Obama’s American Jobs Act would not only add 1.9 million jobs next year, but makes targeted investments to arrest the trend in layoffs. The plan includes $35 billion in direct state aid infusion that will “prevent up to 280,000 layoffs of teachers, who are — along with cops and firefighters — particularly vulnerable to local government budget shortfalls.”
However, Republicans continue to block Obama’s much-needed plan because, in part, they see public job loss as a positive. As Yglesias points out, “this shrinkage is exactly what conservatives claim to believe will spark growth once they bring the era of Kenyan Anticolonialism to an end.” Buying into the conservative campaign against government workers, Republicans governors like Chris Christie (NJ) and Rick Scott (FL) openly tout laying off thousands of workers as a badge of honor. Scott actually bragged about getting rid of 15,000 jobs in his state. In talking up his draconian budget cuts, Scott admitted that his “biggest cut” is “always people.”
However loud Republicans sing about the shrinking public sector, plummeting public job numbers have failed to deliver on the promise of “private sector magic” — and the economy will continue to suffer for it.