Economic Snapshot | Jobs and Unemployment

Public-sector job losses: An unprecedented drag on the recovery

Since the recovery from the Great Recession officially began in June 2009, private-sector jobs are up by 2.8 million, but public-sector jobs (the combined employment in federal, state, and local governments) are down by 584,000. The figure below compares trends in public-sector employment in the last four recoveries. The current recovery is the only one that has seen public-sector losses over its first 31 months.

If public-sector employment had grown since June 2009 by the average amount it grew in the three previous recoveries (2.8 percent) instead of shrinking by 2.5 percent, there would be 1.2 million more public-sector jobs in the U.S. economy today. In addition, these extra public-sector jobs would have helped preserve about 500,000 private-sector jobs.

There is reason to be optimistic, though, as public-sector losses have moderated recently. If the sector begins to actually add jobs in the coming months, the economy would benefit significantly in 2012 and beyond.

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