Today’s jobs report would have been somewhat more encouraging if schools hadn’t eliminated more jobs for teachers and other workers last month.
Local school districts cut 10,700 jobs in April, continuing a nearly four-year-long trend. They have cut 274,000 jobs since school employment peaked in August 2008 (see graph).
Even more school jobs will likely disappear in the next few months, as states continue to close shortfalls for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1 in most states. Thirty states have closed or will close about $49 billion in shortfalls.
With the federal government providing no more emergency aid and most state reserves depleted, states likely will close their shortfalls primarily through spending cuts, following last year’s pattern.
Meanwhile, the number of students schools need to educate has risen, even as schools have cut jobs. States expect to have 350,000 more public elementary and high school students in the school year that starts later this year than they did when the recession began.
Since teaching is labor intensive, it’s hard to significantly shrink the number of teachers and other school workers without having an impact on the quality of the education that children receive. In this way, the ongoing school jobs cuts not only slow the nation’s current economic recovery, they also damage its future economic potential.