Last week’s employment report in the US contained a familiar story: the private sector continues to add jobs, albeit at a modest pace, while government layoffs continue to undo a portion of those job gains. In the absence of the current mania to reduce the size of government, the US labor market would have gained closer to 2 million jobs instead of the roughly 1.5 million actually created over the past year.
But it’s informative to take a look at exactly which sort of government jobs are being cut. The following table tells the story.
Over the past two years, government employment in the US at all levels (federal, state, and local) has fallen by a bit over half a million. Total federal employment has remained roughly constant (increased defense department jobs have made up for job losses elsewhere in the federal government), and employment by state governments has fallen by a bit. But local government employment has seen by far the largest change over the past two years, with local governments alone accounting for about 90% of all government job losses in the US. And of that, the majority of job losses are education jobs.
The US (along with many countries around the world right now) is currently going through a deeply unfortunate and harmful bout of fiscal contraction, right when it should be doing exactly the opposite. And by acheiving that fiscal contraction primarily by laying off teachers, it appears to have decided to do so on the backs of its schoolchildren.