The latest release of unemployment data from the Labor Department shows schools and other local governments continued to slash payrolls in December, capping a year in which an estimated 181,000 jobs were cut.
Local governments lost another 14,000 jobs in December, matching similar job losses for the previous month. The new figures, released Friday, come as private sector employment showed further signs of growth.
The economy added about 1.64 million total jobs in 2011, fueled by gains reported in the later part of the year. But reductions to government payrolls, mostly at the local level, curbed overall yearly job growth.
About 280,000 public employee positions have been eliminated since December 2010, with 181,000 job losses in local government, according to Labor Department data.
Reductions to school staffs, which comprise about half of all local government employees, accounted for the largest cuts. The Labor Department estimates schools and related local agencies have lost about 113,000 education positions since December 2010.
State governments also significantly reduced payrolls for the year, cutting an estimated 63,000 jobs between December 2010 and last month. The Labor Department did, though, report an increase in education workers employed by colleges and other institutions at the state level. Excluding these job gains, state governments lost an estimated 77,600 jobs in 2011.
Payroll figures for all state government workers remained unchanged last month.
Overall, the national unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in December, down from a revised 8.7 percent in November. The jobless rate has dropped each month after reaching 9.1 percent in August.
The Labor Department is scheduled to release updated state and regional unemployment figures Jan. 24.