Last Three Years Were Worst On Record For Public Sector Job Losses

Private businesses have added jobs for 25 consecutive months as the American economic recovery continues, slowly but surely. At the same time, however, the loss of public sector jobs at the federal, state, and local levels has inhibited that recovery, preventing it from becoming as robust as it could be.

Despite cries from conservatives about the growth of government under the current administration, the public sector has shed more than 600,000 jobs since President Obama took office and has added jobs in just two months since the beginning of 2011. The only other time state governments have contracted in two consecutive years came during the healthier economic times of the mid-1990s. Altogether, the first three years of the Obama administration has been the worst three-year stretch on record for public sector job losses, Reuters reports:

The result? The last three years of job losses at the state and local government level has been the most dramatic since Labor Department records began in 1955, according to a Reuters analysis. […]

Local governments have cut 482,000 jobs since the beginning of 2009. They added jobs in just two months since 2011 started. Previously, states only had two consecutive years of layoffs, 1995 and 1996, when they scrapped about 57,000 jobs, or about one-third of the 150,000 cut since the beginning of 2009.

The loss of government jobs has had dire effects on the recovery. In 2011, government job losses pushed total layoffs past the 2010 total, despite better job growth in the private sector. “If public-sector employment had grown since June 2009 by the average amount it grew in the three previous recoveries (2.8 percent) instead of shrinking by 2.5 percent, there would be 1.2 million more public-sector jobs in the U.S. economy today,” the Economic Policy Institute found in a recent report.

Those job losses have led to slower emergency response times, backlogged courts, and larger classroom sizes, and the public sector losses aren’t likely to cease in 2012. The public sector lost 1,000 jobs in March, and according to Moody’s, states are expected to lose another 15,000 jobs while local governments will shed between 150,000 and 175,000 this year. And yet, Congress is doing little to help. Republicans have blocked numerous efforts to aid states since stimulus funds expired, including a provision in the president’s American Jobs Act that would have helped prevent layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers.