For all the talk among conservatives about the “bloated” size of government, public sector job losses have plagued America’s economic recovery from the Great Recession. And with the automatic budget cuts that took effect on March 1 beginning to take effect, those losses are only going to make efforts to fully escape the throes of the recession even harder.
Governments at the state, local, and federal level have cut 740,000 jobs since the beginning of the recession, according to Department of Labor data. So even as the private sector has added 5.2 million jobs in that time, the public sector is still in the red, as this chart from the Wall Street Journal illustrates:
The losses that occurred at the state and local level were due to crimped budgets because of the recession, but they were exacerbated by budget cuts at the federal level too. Hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other government workers have lost jobs as federal aid to states has been reduced and as states have cut aid to localities. The last three years were the worst on record for public sector job losses.
That will only get worse as sequestration continues to go into effect. Government agencies will begin furloughing workers at the beginning of April, and though that won’t have the same effect as all-out job losses, it will still reduce pay for those workers. Reduced aid to states and localities will mean that schools and government offices leave jobs vacant and cut existing staff. Government spending has traditionally pulled America out of economic downturns, and had it maintained its pre-recession employment level, the nation’s 7.8 percent unemployment rate would be a full point lower. Instead, budget cuts that lead to public sector job losses have only made the road to recovery longer than it should have been.