Slashed Public Payrolls Make the Unemployment Problem Worse

Source: Center for Effective Government, June 18, 2013

…Although the private sector is recovering, recent government policies have not been helping. The jobs situation would be substantially better if local, state, and federal governments were not cutting their payrolls. Since the start of the recession, about 528,000 government jobs have been eliminated, and a smaller percentage of the employed workforce works in government. The public sector added some jobs during the official period of the recession, but cut back more steeply since it technically ended. “Since the recovery began in June 2009, the public sector has lost nearly three-quarters-of-a-million jobs (737,000),” the Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz pointed out. “These losses are an enormous drain on the recovery.”

The crunch in the public sector job market is exacerbating the substantial employment needs in the U.S. that are not being met. There are 11.8 million unemployed people; some 4.4 million (37 percent) have been searching for work for more than six months. Some 7.9 million are “involuntary part-time workers” – meaning they work part-time but want full-time work – and 780,000 have stopped searching for work altogether; these people are not counted in the official 7.6 percent unemployment rate….

…There is a legitimate debate about the best way government can create jobs – whether indirectly through greater spending on infrastructure and other investments that increase private sector hiring or through direct public sector hiring (school teachers, clean-up crews, etc.) – but in the last few years, the nation has not been having that debate. Instead, austerity-oriented politicians have been entirely focused on cutting down the size of government and immediate deficit reduction….While the economy has begun to slowly recover in the private sector, reductions in public sector spending over the last three years have held back growth and allowed unemployment to remain unconscionably high. The conversation should change. One of the best things we could do to reverse course is to end the slash-and-burn approach to government so prevalent since 2010….