Last Four Years Were Worst For Public Workers Since World War II

Over the last three months, one public employee has been fired for every five private sector workers that have found a job. Since the end of 2008, nearly 700,000 public sector workers have lost their jobs, which the New York Times’ Floyd Norris notes, makes the last four years the worst for public employment since World War II:

It is by far the largest four-year decline in government employment since the 1944–48 term. That decline was caused by the end of World War II; this one was caused largely by budget limitations. The only other post-1948 four-year drop was during Ronald Reagan’s first term, when government employment fell 0.6 percent.

This sort of mass contraction doesn’t just hurt the public sector and those who depend upon its services. It drags down the entire economy, and its effects bleed over into the private sector. The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that the shrinking public sector has cost the overall economy 750,000 private sector jobs. “For every dollar cut in salary and supplies of public-sector workers, another $0.24 is lost in purchasing power throughout the rest of the economy,” EPI found.

As former White House economist Jared Bernstein wrote, “It’s obviously nuts to maintain, as some do, that the government doesn’t create jobs. It creates millions of them, and we very much need them if we’re going to educate kids, drink water, put out fires, have public safety, etc. But public sector jobs also create private sector jobs upstream and downstream.” In 2011, Congressional Republicans blocked the American Jobs Act, which would have prevented at least some of the mass public sector layoffs that have occurred.