America Has Hundreds Of Thousands Fewer Teachers Than It Had Three Years Ago

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that the United States economy added 163,000 jobs in July, a positive if not large enough step in the nation’s economic recovery. But while the private sector continues to add jobs, federal, state, and local governments continue to shed them. The public sector lost 9,000 more jobs in July, bringing its total cuts to 648,000 over the last three years — the worst three-year period on record.

The Hamilton Project examined government data and found that among those public sector cuts, teachers, police officers, and emergency first responders have been hit especially hard. From 2009 to 2011, the country lost 220,000 teaching jobs, and the number of emergency responders dropped by more than 40 percent, as the chart below shows:

The Hamilton Project’s data came from the Current Population Survey and measured through 2011. As ThinkProgress reported in July, BLS data show that the economy shed 130,000 teaching jobs in the year spanning June 2011 to June 2012, meaning the actual number of vanished teaching jobs is likely higher than the one found by the Hamilton Project.

While the government typically adds jobs during recessions to bolster economic recoveries, it has not done so this time. This hurts the economy in the short-term — the nation’s unemployment rate would be a full point lower without the public sector cuts — but it also has perilous consequences for the future. The lack of teachers will only exacerbate the nation’s growing education gap between rich and poor, which contributes to a cycle of inequality that is jeopardizing the nation’s middle class.

Worse yet, the problem created by these job losses is unnecessary. Republicans’ “completely misguided” pursuit of deficit reduction at all costs, even as the nation’s borrowing costs reach record lows, has prevented the government from making the investments it needs to protect the jobs of teachers, police officers, and first-responders. Those investments wouldn’t just keep teachers in the classroom and first responders on the job, but would also help improve the nation’s overall recovery.