Local Governments Pick Up Hiring in 2016

The latest jobs report shows local government employment increasing, while state and federal employment stagnates.
by | April 1, 2016

The latest jobs data suggests local government hiring has picked up so far this year.

New U.S. Department of Labor estimates published Friday indicate that local governments added 19,000 jobs last month and 48,000 positions so far this year.

Public employment often fluctuates as a result of hiring or downsizing in schools, which make up roughly half of the sector’s total employment. This doesn’t appear to be the case this time, however, as noneducation employment accounts for the bulk of the recent growth.

Jobs in local government, excluding education, increased each of the first three months and are up 42,000 since December.  One subset of local government employment categorized as “general administration” has increased by an estimated 18,000 positions this year.

While the numbers are promising, the gains are still small and cover only three months, so they can’t be indicative of any longer-term trend.

At the state government level, public employment has changed little, declining slightly each of the first three months of the year.

Budget deficits continue to limit any hiring in a number of states. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, for example, both imposed hiring freezes across state government, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed the same earlier this year. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy has signaled that layoffs are likely.

Total federal employment has similarly changed little so far this year.

Private-sector job growth for March remained steady, in line with economists’ expectations. Total nonfarm employment (which includes government employment) climbed 215,000 in March, mirroring recent monthly gains. The strongest gains were recorded in retail trade (+48,000), construction (+37,000) and the health-care industry (+37,000), while manufacturing and mining employment declined.

One particularly positive sign in the jobs report was that the labor participation rate, which reflects all individuals employed or actively looking for work, picked up for the sixth consecutive month. Some economists, however, warned that employment for temporary help services -- considered a leading economic indicator -- has dipped this year after peaking in December.