Today’s jobs report suggests that state and local public job losses may be leveling out, a more hopeful picture than last month. States and localities gained a modest 7,000 jobs in March and have cut 28,000 jobs over the last 12 months, a much smaller amount than in recent one-year periods. But states and localities will need much more than a few months of modest job gains to recover fully from the recession.
The country has 718,000 fewer state and local government employees than in August 2008, when employment peaked before the recession took hold (see graph).
This means fewer teachers, child abuse caseworkers, firefighters, and police officers ? at a time when needs remain high. And the large-scale loss of public-sector jobs has slowed the nation’s recovery, just as private-sector job losses have.
Whether states and localities begin to recover depends in part on federal policymakers. If they allow the “sequestration” budget cuts to remain in effect and even extend beyond this year, states and localities will lose federal funding for schools and other services, forcing more layoffs and service reductions.