Local Governments Cuts Accelerate in Jobs Report

Previous employment estimates showed local government cuts subsiding, but new figures tell a different story.
by | May 4, 2012 AT 2:40 PM

The outlooks for state and local public employment appear to be heading in opposite directions in Friday’s Labor Department jobs report.

Local governments slashed 12,000 positions last month, with schools accounting for most job losses. Localities across the country have cut 31,000 jobs since January, according to new Labor Department estimates.

Previously-released figures showed local government job losses subsiding. This no longer appears to be the case, though, with revised February and March estimates reflecting lower totals. March employment estimates were revised down 17,000 than previously reported.

Still, public sector employment reductions at the local level are behind last year’s pace, when governments reduced payrolls by 46,000 the first four months.

State government employment figures are more positive. New estimates signal a break in job losses, with states reporting gains each month since December.  Although April numbers remained mostly unchanged, total state employment rose 19,000 since January. Hiring at colleges and universities fueled much of the increase.

A new survey shows state and local governments have sought to stave off job cuts by pushing down payroll expenses in other ways.

The survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence reported 51 percent of governments implemented pay freezes, while 42 percent suspended hiring.

Nationwide, job growth slowed in April as employers added 115,000 positions to payrolls, far fewer than the uptick in employment reported earlier this year. The health care, retail trade and professional and business services industries all reported employment increases, according to the Labor Department.

The county’s seasonally-adjusted jobless rate dipped slightly to 8.1 percent, but that could be explained by job seekers giving up looking for work, with April figures estimating the labor force shrunk by 342,000.

View changes in total state and local government employment dating back to 2009: