Mike Maciag is Data Editor for GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
State and local government employment remained mostly unchanged in March, continuing a trend of flat jobs growth.
The Labor Department reported Friday that local governments lost a total of 3,000 jobs in March, with February figures revised upward by 2,000. The public education sector accounted for nearly all of the cuts.
State payrolls were also relatively frozen for the month, adding only 2,000 jobs nationwide.
Governments aren’t about to begin a hiring spree, but the numbers signal public sector job cuts could be slowing. States and localities frequently slashed 20,000 or more jobs each month throughout much of 2010 and 2011.
So far this year, state and local governments added a combined 14,000 jobs.
More cuts could be on the horizon, though, for some public agencies.
In Alabama, the state’s general fund revenues are expected to sink nearly 20 percent next year. A state House committee approved a budget earlier this week that would slash spending by 30 percent for non-education departments. The executive director of the Alabama State Employees Association told the Associated Press he did not think substantial layoffs could be avoided.
Some agencies facing budget shortfalls in Alabama and other states have left openings unfilled to stave off job cuts.
Government employment mirrored stagnant private sector job growth in March. The U.S. economy added only 120,000 jobs, the smallest gain in five months, with the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate falling from 8.3 to 8.2 percent.
The weak jobs report followed positive news earlier this week that the four-week average number of first-time filings for jobless benefits dipped to the lowest level in four years.
View historical data for state and local government employment:
GOVERNING By the Numbers is a companion to GOVERNING Data that digests the growing body of work at the intersection of computer-assisted journalism, data visualization and government transparency.
GOVERNING By the Numbers is dedicated to telling important stories through numbers, with a focus on both our original work in data visualization on GOVERING Data and providing an ongoing tally of editor's picks of new and notable data releases of use to those in government and those who care about it.