Economic Snapshot | Jobs and Unemployment

Local public education employment may have weathered recent storms, but schools are still short 327,000 public educators

With the September employment data in hand, we can look at the number of public educators who are starting work or going back to school this year. The number of teachers and education staff fell dramatically during the Great Recession and has failed to get anywhere near its prerecession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with an expanding student population. In addition to losses from the Great Recession, the pursuit of austerity at all levels of government has meant that public education jobs are still 128,000 less than they were nine years ago.

The Public Education Gap

Public education employment and the number of jobs needed to keep up with enrollment, 2003–2017

Local public education employment  Jobs needed to keep up with student enrollment
2003-01-01 7.6974
2003-02-01 7.6974
2003-03-01 7.6912
2003-04-01 7.6985
2003-05-01 7.6950
2003-06-01 7.7315
2003-07-01 7.7791
2003-08-01 7.7252
2003-09-01 7.6675
2003-10-01 7.7165
2003-11-01 7.7025
2003-12-01 7.7031
2004-01-01 7.7120
2004-02-01 7.7199
2004-03-01 7.7483
2004-04-01 7.7538
2004-05-01 7.7767
2004-06-01 7.7607
2004-07-01 7.7575
2004-08-01 7.7669
2004-09-01 7.7743
2004-10-01 7.7828
2004-11-01 7.7975
2004-12-01 7.8032
2005-01-01 7.8219
2005-02-01 7.8311
2005-03-01 7.8209
2005-04-01 7.8294
2005-05-01 7.8402
2005-06-01 7.8188
2005-07-01 7.9047
2005-08-01 7.9073
2005-09-01 7.8787
2005-10-01 7.8646
2005-11-01 7.8756
2005-12-01 7.8830
2006-01-01 7.8822
2006-02-01 7.8869
2006-03-01 7.8906
2006-04-01 7.8961
2006-05-01 7.8839
2006-06-01 7.8678
2006-07-01 7.8999
2006-08-01 7.9352
2006-09-01 7.9726
2006-10-01 7.9502
2006-11-01 7.9545
2006-12-01 7.9568
2007-01-01 7.9598
2007-02-01 7.9533
2007-03-01 7.9563
2007-04-01 7.9654
2007-05-01 7.9743
2007-06-01 7.9646
2007-07-01 7.9457
2007-08-01 7.9918
2007-09-01 8.0086
2007-10-01 8.0230
2007-11-01 8.0344
2007-12-01 8.0547
2008-01-01 8.0535
2008-02-01 8.0647
2008-03-01 8.0679
2008-04-01 8.0620
2008-05-01 8.0781
2008-06-01 8.0862
2008-07-01 8.1194
2008-08-01 8.0919
2008-09-01 8.0853 8.0853 8.0853
2008-10-01 8.0898 8.0871 8.0853
2008-11-01 8.0828 8.0889 8.0853
2008-12-01 8.0836 8.0908 8.0853
2009-01-01 8.0840 8.0926 8.0853
2009-02-01 8.0967 8.0944 8.0853
2009-03-01 8.0937 8.0962 8.0853
2009-04-01 8.0916 8.0980 8.0853
2009-05-01 8.0882 8.0999 8.0853
2009-06-01 8.1084 8.1017 8.0853
2009-07-01 8.0667 8.1035 8.0853
2009-08-01 8.0619 8.1053 8.0853
2009-09-01 8.0123 8.1072 8.0853
2009-10-01 8.0737 8.1090 8.0853
2009-11-01 8.0991 8.1108 8.0853
2009-12-01 8.0716 8.1126 8.0853
2010-01-01 8.0685 8.1145 8.0853
2010-02-01 8.0570 8.1163 8.0853
2010-03-01 8.0580 8.1181 8.0853
2010-04-01 8.0563 8.1199 8.0853
2010-05-01 8.0624 8.1218 8.0853
2010-06-01 8.0486 8.1236 8.0853
2010-07-01 8.0263 8.1254 8.0853
2010-08-01 7.9971 8.1272 8.0853
2010-09-01 7.9192 8.1291 8.0853
2010-10-01 7.9637 8.1309 8.0853
2010-11-01 7.9615 8.1327 8.0853
2010-12-01 7.9535 8.1346 8.0853
2011-01-01 7.9436 8.1364 8.0853
2011-02-01 7.9296 8.1382 8.0853
2011-03-01 7.9249 8.1401 8.0853
2011-04-01 7.9367 8.1419 8.0853
2011-05-01 7.8987 8.1437 8.0853
2011-06-01 7.9605 8.1456 8.0853
2011-07-01 7.8620 8.1474 8.0853
2011-08-01 7.8212 8.1492 8.0853
2011-09-01 7.7980 8.1511 8.0853
2011-10-01 7.8279 8.1529 8.0853
2011-11-01 7.8147 8.1547 8.0853
2011-12-01 7.8042 8.1566 8.0853
2012-01-01 7.7974 8.1584 8.0853
2012-02-01 7.7998 8.1602 8.0853
2012-03-01 7.7945 8.1621 8.0853
2012-04-01 7.7857 8.1639 8.0853
2012-05-01 7.7740 8.1657 8.0853
2012-06-01 7.7782 8.1676 8.0853
2012-07-01 7.7718 8.1694 8.0853
2012-08-01 7.7708 8.1713 8.0853
2012-09-01 7.7688 8.1731 8.0853
2012-10-01 7.7593 8.1749 8.0853
2012-11-01 7.7553 8.1768 8.0853
2012-12-01 7.7712 8.1786 8.0853
2013-01-01 7.7706 8.1805 8.0853
2013-02-01 7.7716 8.1823 8.0853
2013-03-01 7.7752 8.1841 8.0853
2013-04-01 7.7733 8.1860 8.0853
2013-05-01 7.7785 8.1878 8.0853
2013-06-01 7.7560 8.1897 8.0853
2013-07-01 7.7588 8.1915 8.0853
2013-08-01 7.7758 8.1933 8.0853
2013-09-01 7.7806 8.1952 8.0853
2013-10-01 7.7772 8.1970 8.0853
2013-11-01 7.7801 8.1989 8.0853
2013-12-01 7.7605 8.2007 8.0853
2014-01-01 7.7622 8.2026 8.0853
2014-02-01 7.7667 8.2044 8.0853
2014-03-01 7.7752 8.2063 8.0853
2014-04-01 7.8029 8.2081 8.0853
2014-05-01 7.7858 8.2100 8.0853
2014-06-01 7.8150 8.2118 8.0853
2014-07-01 7.8243 8.2137 8.0853
2014-08-01 7.8156 8.2155 8.0853
2014-09-01 7.8474 8.2173 8.0853
2014-10-01 7.8394 8.2192 8.0853
2014-11-01 7.8414 8.2210 8.0853
2014-12-01 7.8474 8.2229 8.0853
2015-01-01 7.8525 8.2247 8.0853
2015-02-01 7.8622 8.2266 8.0853
2015-03-01 7.8486 8.2284 8.0853
2015-04-01 7.8605 8.2303 8.0853
2015-05-01 7.8670 8.2322 8.0853
2015-06-01 7.8706 8.2340 8.0853
2015-07-01 7.8796 8.2359 8.0853
2015-08-01 7.8984 8.2377 8.0853
2015-09-01 7.8651 8.2396 8.0853
2015-10-01 7.8658 8.2414 8.0853
2015-11-01 7.8694 8.2433 8.0853
2015-12-01 7.8752 8.2451 8.0853
2016-01-01 7.8829 8.2470 8.0853
2016-02-01 7.8867 8.2488 8.0853
2016-03-01 7.9006 8.2507 8.0853
2016-04-01 7.9044 8.2526 8.0853
2016-05-01 7.9139 8.2544 8.0853
2016-06-01 7.9171 8.2563 8.0853
2016-07-01 7.9422 8.2581 8.0853
2016-08-01 7.9614 8.2600 8.0853
2016-09-01 7.9676 8.2618 8.0853
2016-10-01 7.9529 8.2637 8.0853
2016-11-01 7.9336 8.2656 8.0853
2016-12-01 7.9446 8.2674 8.0853
2017-01-01 7.9532 8.2693 8.0853
2017-02-01 7.9558 8.2711 8.0853
2017-03-01 7.9568 8.2730 8.0853
2017-04-01 7.9657 8.2749 8.0853
2017-05-01 7.9614 8.2767 8.0853
2017-06-01 7.9522 8.2786 8.0853
2017-07-01 7.9466 8.2805 8.0853
2017-08-01 7.9551 8.2823 8.0853
2017-09-01 7.9570  8.2842  8.0853 
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Source: EPI analysis of Current Employment Statistics  public data series and U.S. Department of Education (2015)

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Over the last year, the number of public educators, of which roughly half are teachers (Table 1), fell by 10,600. These losses are likely unaffected in September by the unusually stormy employment numbers because the deceleration in local public education jobs began a couple months prior. There were 6,300 fewer jobs between August 2016 and August 2017 and only 4,400 additional jobs between July 2016 and 2017—while employment in public education grew the previous year over the same period, rising 76,000 between July-September 2016 and July-September 2015. The recent slowdown in local education jobs is troubling on top of years of losses. To be clear, this shortfall is due to the recession and austerity-induced cutbacks, which directly impacts state and local public employment.

Furthermore, if we include the number of jobs that should have been created just to keep up with enrollment, we are currently experiencing a 327,000 job shortfall in public education. The costs of a significant gap in public education employment are measurable. For instance, this overall reduction in public education jobs could translate into larger class sizes, fewer teacher aides, fewer guidance counselors, fewer extracurricular activities, and changes to the curricula. Shortsighted austerity measures at all levels of government hit children in today’s schools. In order to get back to prerecession levels of educators, we need strong public investment in education that will help students and educators alike.

*Edited for clarification October 10, 2017.


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