Governments Record Positive Job Growth in February

After two consecutive dismal jobs reports, new Labor Department estimates mostly exceeded economists’ expectations.
by | March 7, 2014 AT 3:00 PM
Chemistry professor Dr. Stephan Franzen teaches at N.C. State University. Nearly all the gains in state government employment in February were in colleges and universities. MCT/Travis Long

After two consecutive dismal jobs reports, new estimates published Friday by the Labor Department mostly exceeded economists’ expectations.

Total payroll employment climbed 175,000 last month, close to prior monthly averages over the past year.

State governments added an estimated 11,000 jobs in February, with colleges and universities accounting for nearly all the gains.

Local government employment similarly saw an uptick of 8,000 positions. While that’s not much considering the overall size of the sector, it’s still the first month of positive growth since September.

In a survey published last month by the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, two-thirds of government employers reported they planned to hire for new positions in fiscal year 2014, a slight improvement over last year.

Overall, local government employment has remained remarkably steady for about two years now. While the sector isn’t shedding payrolls at the same rate as before, it hasn’t begun to recover much of the jobs lost in the aftermath of the recession, either.

Public employment at the state level tends to fluctuate more, driven largely by changes in higher education employment.

Meanwhile, the federal government continues to suffer sizable job losses. The sector, including the postal service, cut another 6,000 jobs last month after losing 13,000 in January and 3,000 in December, according to Labor Department estimates.

The Labor Department also reported the number of long-term unemployed (for at least 27 weeks) swelled by 203,000 last month. These individuals account for about 37 percent of all unemployed persons in the labor force.