The last three years have been the worst on record for public sector job losses, and the fact that more than 600,000 public employees have been laid off is holding back the nation’s economic recovery. In the last 12 months, local governments have lost more than 130,000 teaching jobs alone, according to monthly jobs data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today.
In June 2011, local governments employed more than 7.9 million teachers. A year later, that number has dropped to 7.8 million, as Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal notes. Since June 2008, when local governments employed 8.1 million teachers, they have shed more than 300,000 teaching jobs, as this Federal Reserve Economic Data chart shows:
Such cuts obviously have perilous effects for the nation’s education system and long-term economic health, but it hurts the economy in the short-term too. Teachers are disproportionately women, so the cuts affect a subset of worker that already faces significant disadvantages in the American workplace, and these losses no doubt played a role in the recession’s out-sized impact on female workers.
What is worse, though, is that congressional Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to extend aid to state and local governments that would have protected teaching and public safety jobs multiple times over the last two years. Keeping teachers and other public sector employees in the workforce would boost demand to help the economy, so much so that growing the public sector at normal rates (instead of shrinking it at a record pace) would knock a full point off the unemployment rate.