Public sector job losses have held back economic growth during the recovery from the Great Recession, and more bad news came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly employment report this morning. In May, federal, state, and local governments shed 13,000 jobs, adding to an already-record total of losses.
But Republicans ignore that government job losses are holding back the recovery, instead promising to shrink government employment even more. For instance, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) told CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin today that the Obama administration has caused a “huge, huge buildup” in the federal workforce that has slowed down private sector job growth:
TOOBIN: One of the striking things about this jobs report, and several of the recent months, ahs been that governments have been laying people off, that government hiring is, that states and localities, don’t have any money to hire people. One of the things you want to do is cut taxes and cut spending. Why do you wnat to see more layoffs of government employees when…employment is such a problem?
HENSARLING: Well, number one, we’ve seen a huge, huge build up, particularly of the federal workforce. What we need is to promote economic growth with fundamental tax reform, and then frankly there wouldn’t necessarily have to be any layoffs. But you’re not going to get fundamental, you’re not going to get economic growth with this president’s policies. And so, what we saw for a long time under the Obama administration and under his stimulus program, which obviously has clearly failed, is we saw private sector jobs lose out while he was increasing federal payrolls whether they needed to be increased or not.
Blaming growth in the federal workforce for the struggles of the private sector has become a favorite Republican talking point, but that doesn’t make it true. In the last three years, the public sector has shed more jobs than any three-year period on record, and more than 600,000 government workers have lost their jobs since Obama took office. The private sector, meanwhile, has now seen 27 consecutive months of job growth and recovered all of the jobs it lost in the opening months of Obama’s term.
The “huge, huge buildup” in the public workforce Hensarling claims took place would have certainly benefited the economy had it taken place, since adding jobs in sectors like education would have increased demand and driven growth. It hasn’t happened, though, because Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts to send money to states to prevent further layoffs of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public employees.