The national unemployment rate unexpectedly dipped 0.3 percentage points to 7.8 percent in September – the lowest level since January 2009.
Friday’s jobs report also held another surprise: an uptick in seasonally-adjusted education employment. Revised Labor Department estimates indicate local governments added 79,000 jobs in education between June and September while state governments netted nearly 23,000 related jobs.
The new figures reflect a sharp increase from initial Labor Department estimates. Total local government employment, about half of which consists of teaching positions, was revised up 30,000 for July and 69,000 in August.
Of course, one would expect an increase in education jobs as school districts and colleges are now back in session. The seasonally-adjusted figures are said to account for these annual changes, though. By comparison, seasonally-adjusted figures showed a 36,400 decline in education jobs at the local level between June and September 2011 (79,000 increase this year) and an increase of 17,000 state government education-related jobs (up 23,000 this year).
The elimination of teaching positions accounted for a large chunk of public sector job losses over the past few years as school districts worked to bridge budget gaps.
While the new figures are welcome news, they're not yet enough to signify any long-term trends.
Some schools have halted staff cuts. A few others, like the St. Paul (Minn.) School District are electing to fill vacant slots. The district added $17 million to its budget, hiring nearly 200 employees in recent months.
Meanwhile, total employment for other areas of government hasn’t budged. The Labor Department’s preliminary figures showed a loss of 5,900 non-education local government positions in August and another 9,200 last month. State government employment changed little in recent months.
Of course, all of these estimates are preliminary and will likely be revised again. Updated state unemployment estimates will be released Oct. 19.
Our chart below tracks monthly changes in state and local government employment, including education:
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