The Public Sector Is Still Bleeding

Public-sector jobs continued to disappear last month; according to today’s report, government employment is down by 4,000. To Republicans, these aren’t “real” jobs. For the rest of us, however, the decline of the public sector over the last three years has been a tremendous drag on economic growth. Since June 2009, state and local governments have shed more than 600,000 jobs. At the Economic Policy Institute, Josh Bivens and Heather Shierholz crunch the numbers to find that the economy would have 2.3 million more jobs if not for those ongoing losses:

Putting our four components together—the jobs lost in the public sector, the jobs the public sector should have gained just to keep up with population growth, the jobs lost in the private sector due to direct public-sector job declines, and the jobs likely lost when state spending cutbacks on transfer programs were made—we find that if it weren’t for state and local austerity, the labor market would have 2.3 million more jobs today—and half of these jobs would be in the private sector.

This is more than a fifth of our 9.8 million “jobs gap”, the number of jobs needed to bring the economy back to full employment. If all of these 2.3 million jobs had been filled, it is likely that the unemployment rate would now be between 6.7% and 7.5% instead of 8.2%, and the labor force participation rate (which has dropped dramatically in recent years due to weak job opportunities) would be up to three-tenths of a percentage point higher than it is.

Remember: Thanks to Republicans on the state and local level, the United States has been going through austerity for the last two years. Our sluggish economic growth has less to do with the administration’s policies and everything to do with a Republican Party that sees mass immiseration as an opportunity to cut spending.

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