Economic Snapshot | Education

The Teacher Gap: Strong Gains but Large Jobs Gap Remains

In September, public-sector employment increased by 12,000 jobs, with the majority of that growth coming from local government education—an increase of 6,700 jobs. Local government education is largely jobs in public preK-12 education (the majority of which are teachers, but also teacher aides, librarians, guidance counselors, administrators, and support staff).

While this is clearly a positive sign, unfortunately, the number of teachers and related education staffers fell dramatically in the recession and has failed to get anywhere near its pre-recession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with the expanding student population. Since 2008, public preK–12 enrollment increased by 1.5 percent. The figure below breaks down the teacher gap. The dark blue line illustrates the level of teacher employment. While the most recent positive trend is obvious, the longer term losses are also readily apparently.

Along with dismal trends in public sector employment in general, about a quarter million public education jobs were lost in the great recession and its aftermath. If we add to that the number of public education jobs that should have been added simply to keep up with growing enrollment, then we are currently experiencing a 377,000 jobs shortfall in local public education. The costs of a significant teacher gap are measurable: larger class sizes, fewer teacher aides, fewer extracurricular activities, and changes to the curriculum.

See related work on Education | Public-sector workers

See more work by Elise Gould