Management & Labor

How Public-Sector Employment Fared in 2013

Most governments didn’t shed large numbers of jobs in 2013, but they didn’t begin to ramp up hiring either.
January 10, 2014
Darlene Tinsley, left, secretary/treasurer for the American Federation of Government Employees, leads protesters of the government shutdown in front of a federal building in Cleveland Tuesday.
Darlene Tinsley, left, secretary/treasurer for the American Federation of Government Employees, leads protesters of the government shutdown in front of a federal building in Cleveland Tuesday. AP/Tony Dejak

State and local government employment remained flat last year, still failing to recover jobs lost in the aftermath of the recession.

Nationally, the public sector job market of 2013 looked a lot like 2012. Most governments didn’t shed large numbers of jobs, but they didn’t begin to ramp up hiring, either.

Job estimates published Friday indicate local governments collectively added 33,000 jobs last year, an increase of only 0.2 percent.

While the aggregate totals show numbers didn’t change much, the situation was much different in select localities. Chicago Public Schools and the Philadelphia School District, for example, both laid off thousands of teachers amid school closings this summer.

State government employment also registered a meager year-over-year gain of 0.2 percent. The sector would have actually lost jobs last year had it not been for colleges and universities, which added an estimated 16,400 positions.

The steepest cuts to state and local government payrolls occurred back in 2010 and 2011 as revenues plummeted after the economy worsened.

The federal government was the hardest hit last year, trimming payrolls by 2.5 percent, according to Labor Department estimates.

The following table shows changes in total employment, by government sector, between December 2012 and last month:

Government Sector December 2013 Employment Estimate Year-over-year Change in jobs Percentage Change
Federal government 2,727,000 -71,000 -2.5%
State government: total 5,160,000 10,000 0.2%
State government: education 2,518,500 16,400 0.7%
State government: excluding education 2,641,700 -6,400 -0.2%
Local government: total 14,324,000 33,000 0.2%
Local government: education 8,101,900 4,900 0.1%
Local government: excluding education 6,221,700 27,700 0.4%
Source: Labor Department, December 2012 and 2013 non-seasonally adjusted data

Please note that these figures do not reflect hiring of government contractors.

While state and local government employment levels didn’t budge in 2013, most other sectors of the economy did expand, albeit at a slower pace than expected.

Friday’s jobs report signaled job gains still haven’t accelerated, despite positive reports the past few months that suggested the economy was poised for a turnaround. Preliminary estimates indicate the economy added just 74,000 jobs last month, the lowest tally in three years.

Overall, public sector employment levels have remained mostly unchanged for about two years now, as shown by the following chart:

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