October’s employment report finds that states and localities continue to lay people off.
State and local governments cut 22,000 jobs last month, the 31st month out of the last 38 in which total state and local employment shrank. States and localities have cut 644,000 jobs since August 2008.
The job cuts, which states and localities are imposing to help close their budget gaps, have been widespread. For example, since August 2008:
Local school districts have cut 242,000 positions.
Cities, counties, and other local governments have cut 252,000 jobs.
State governments have cut 151,000 jobs.
These job losses have happened at a time when demand for the services that state and local governments provide has risen sharply. There are, for example, at least 7.5 million more people enrolled in Medicaid than when the recession began in December 2007, mainly because so many families lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs. And there are an estimated 261,000 more public school students than 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.