While today’s jobs report shows that the economy added jobs at a healthy pace in January, job growth could have been even stronger if states and localities hadn’t cut 4,000 positions.
About a third of the lost jobs were for teachers and others working in K-12 schools, preliminary data suggest. The rest were non-education jobs at the state level, a category that includes state police, public health employees, and child protective workers.
The January job losses further slowed the already very weak recovery for state and local government jobs. Over the last six months, states and localities have added jobs at a pace that’s only one-eighth the pace of total job growth nationally. Part of the problem is recent tax cuts in states like Kansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, which make it harder for a state to maintain public services.
Despite a modest improvement since bottoming out in mid-2013, state and local government jobs are still down 635,000 from their August 2008 peak. (See chart.) Nationally, the number of jobs returned to pre-recession levels last spring, but states and localities have added back less than one-fifth of the jobs they cut after the recession took hold.