Republican States Cut Most Public Sector Jobs In 2011

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America’s unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point in the last year on the back of strong private sector job growth. February marked the 24th consecutive month of private sector growth, with more than 240,000 jobs added. But the loss of jobs in the public sector continues to hold back the economy, as more than 600,000 federal, state, and local government employees have lost their jobs since President Obama took office.

And while Republicans are trying to credit their small government ideology with bolstering the current economic recovery, a new study from The Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert found that those public sector losses have hit hardest and most often in states where Republicans took control of state legislatures during the 2010 mid-term elections. In 2011, newly-Republican states accounted for 40 percent of the public sector layoffs while cutting government jobs at rates that far outpace the national average:

The 11 states that the Republicans took over in 2010 laid off, on average, 2.5 percent of their government workforces in a single year. This is compared to the overall average of 0.5 percent for the rest of the states. […] [T]hese 11 states as a whole account for a total of 87,000 jobs lost, reflecting around 40.5 percent of the total.

As the chart below (click to enlarge) shows, five of the seven states with the most public sector job losses in 2011 were states that came under Republican control in 2010.

Texas, which has long been controlled by Republicans, “also dropped 4 percent of its public sector workforce in 2011,” Konczal and Covert found. “Because of its size – it had 1,645,000 state and local workers at the end of 2010 – this is a loss of 68,000 jobs, or around an additional 31 percent of the public sector workforce.” Texas and the 11 newly-Republican states accounted for a total of 71.5 percent of the year’s public sector job losses, even though they account for less than one-third of the nation’s public sector workers.

Many government job losses were due, indeed, to the recession’s impact on state budgets. But in many of the newly-Republican states, the GOP made the problems worse. In Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Maine, Republican-controlled legislators not only cut public sector jobs, they led assaults on public sector unions, targeting government workers under the guise of balancing their budgets. In those and others, Republicans exacerbated their states’ deficits with tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, thus leading to even more public sector layoffs that didn’t take place in states that didn’t pursue similar policies.