Management & Labor

Public Sector Records Worst Jobs Month in Over a Year

New figures show local, state and federal payrolls shed 29,000 jobs in January -- the steepest decline for the sector since October 2012.
by | February 7, 2014
A job fair at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
A job fair at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. Getty Images/Robert Nickelsberg

Labor Department jobs data published Friday showed cuts for all areas of the public sector, slowly draining the job market as the national economy recorded another disappointing month.

Preliminary figures indicate local, state and federal payrolls shed 29,000 jobs in January, the steepest decline for the sector since October 2012.

Local governments lost 11,000 jobs last month, mostly in education. While that’s not a particularly large cut, it’s the fourth consecutive month that employment dipped. Throughout most of last year, local government jobs remained relatively stable and actually saw increases around the summer months.

State government employment changed only slightly, declining by an estimated 6,000 in January. Colleges and universities accounted for nearly all of the net losses nationally, while other employment at the state level has fluctuated very little in recent months.

The most pain is at the federal level, which cut another 12,000 positions last month. Since last January, federal agencies have shed an estimated 85,000 jobs. By contrast, state and local employment continues to remain flat, with both sectors adding less than 20,000 jobs over the year.

The sharp decline in government employment underscored what was another weak jobs report.

The economy added just 113,000 jobs last month, down from last year’s monthly average of 194,000.

A month ago, employment figures for December caught economists by surprise when the Labor Department published bleak preliminary estimates. Updated tallies published Friday seemed to reaffirm the numbers were not aberration, with the Labor Department revising estimates up only 1,000 to 75,000 new jobs for the month.

Some suggested the cold winter months could be acting as a drag on segments of the economy, particularly construction. That doesn’t appear to be the case, though, as construction employment fared quite well, adding an estimated 48,000 jobs last month.

Other private sector industries recording notable gains last month included manufacturing (+21,000), professional and business services (+36,000) and leisure/hospitality (+24,000).

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