Government work: how safe a bastion?

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Government jobs are more secure. No surprise there. But you might be surprised by just how much more secure they’ve been during this recession—which, as we were reminded this morning, trudges onward, at least in terms of the labor market.

A new report from the Rockefeller Institute finds that between December 2007 and July 2009, the private sector lost 6.9 million jobs. Meanwhile, state and local governments gained 110,000.

That’s actually a fairly typical pattern for a recession. Governments tend to be slower with both the hiring and the firing—plus lots of union contracts and jobs in “recession-proof” industries (education, health care) provide extra padding.

Although, as the Rockefeller Institute report points out, we’re now starting to see the effects of cutbacks made by states and cities. Since government employment peaked in August 2008, states have shed 33,000 jobs (or 0.6% of their workforce), and municipalities have lost 22,000 jobs (or 0.2%). As report author Donald Boyd notes, “Recent budget actions in state and local governments suggest that further cuts are on the way.”

The report also includes some great graphs comparing state, local and private employment during the past three recessions. You can click on the graphs below to make them larger. Hopefully this starts to make up for the fact that I didn’t post Justin’s usual job-loss charts earlier today.