Government Job Growth Among Weakest of Any Industry

While private-sector employment may finally be ready to accelerate, state and local government job growth has been among the weakest of any industry.
by | December 6, 2013 AT 6:00 PM

Friday’s jobs report brought long-overdue good news for most sectors of the economy. Private sector employers added nearly 200,000 jobs in November, exceeding most analysts’ expectations.

Industries that saw particularly strong job gains last month included transportation and warehousing (+30,500) and construction (+17,000).

So far, though, job growth has yet to pick up at a rate that would accelerate the economic recovery. Over the year, Labor Department estimates indicate the country has seen an uptick in private sector employment of just 2.1 percent.

That’s still far better than the public sector, however, where state and local government job growth is among the weakest of any industry.

Following previous months, there wasn’t much movement for the sector in November. State governments added 8,000 jobs, mostly in education. Employment for localities (including schools) has also fluctuated little recently, with just 6,000 jobs added last month.

Looking back at jobs data over the past 12 months shows the extent to which public employment lags behind the private sector. Over the year, total nonfarm employment increased a meager 1.7 percent. A few of the larger industries have fared better than others, such as professional and business services (+3.5 percent) and construction (+3.1 percent).

Meanwhile, state and local government employment hasn’t budged, increasing just 0.2 and 0.4 percent, respectively. The federal government has shed an estimated 92,000 positions, a reduction of 3.3 percent.

Here’s a chart showing year-over-year percentage changes in employment for select major industries:

The Labor Department also reported Friday that the national unemployment rate fell to 7 percent – a five-year low.

Perhaps the brightest news in the report was an increase in the labor force participation rate, which measures those employed or actively seeking work. While the rate remains at historically low levels, it did increase 0.2 percentage points in November to 63.0 percent.