BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Local governments cut 14,000 jobs last month, today’s Labor Department report finds, the 34th month out of the last 41 in which total state and local employment shrank. (State employment was flat in December.) States and localities have cut 656,000 jobs since employment peaked in August 2008.
The job cuts, which states and localities are imposing to help close their budget gaps, have been widespread. Since the recession started in December 2007, state and local governments have cut a net 464,000 jobs. They include:
- Local school districts have cut 214,000 positions.
- Cities, counties, and other local governments have cut 188,000 jobs.
- State governments have cut 62,000 jobs.
These job losses have happened at a time when demand for the services that state and local governments provide has risen sharply. For example, an estimated 5.6 million more people will be eligible for Medicaid in 2012 than were enrolled in 2008, mainly because so many families lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs. And states expect to have 350,000 more public school students and 1.7 million more public college and university students in the school year that starts later this year than they did when the recession began. The numbers of senior citizens, young children, and unemployed individuals — three groups that tend to use more public services — also have grown.
Given the labor-intensive nature of most public services — teaching, policing, firefighting, and the like — it’s hard to see how governments can continue to cut so many workers without seriously harming the quality of life of the communities they serve.