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How Poorly Government Job Growth Compares to Other Sectors

New data suggests job growth for state and local governments is among the slowest of any sector.

The Labor Department’s latest job report on Friday depicted a bit of optimism for the recovering economy. The nation added an estimated 214,000 jobs in October, and revisions to previous months boosted the monthly average to 229,000 jobs gained so far this year.

Meanwhile, the outlook for government employment has not improved much. While most other sectors added lost jobs, the public sector continues to act as a drag on economic growth.

Local government employment climbed only half a percentage point over the past 12 months. At the state level, public employment totals remain nearly unchanged. Seasonal changes in education employment, which account for a large share of the jobs, mostly explain the sector’s monthly fluctuations in job totals (as shown below). But over the long term, states and localities haven’t recovered from steep jobs losses incurred back in 2010 and 2011.

Federal employment, while a much smaller piece of the sector, has been hit hardest.

Private industry, by comparison, added about 2.5 million jobs over the past 12 months. That’s an increase of about 2.2 percent, compared to 0.3 percent for total government employment. The strongest performing industries over that period include construction, mining and logging, professional and business services and transportation and warehousing.

The following chart shows the Labor Department’s job growth estimates for each larger industry sector since last October:


The only other sectors with recent growth rates as weak as the public sector employ relatively few workers (like the utilities and information industries).

Here's another chart showing monthly employment estimates for states, localities and the federal government:

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Mike Maciag is Data Editor for GOVERNING.
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