A new report by the Rockefeller Institute on state and local job losses during the Great Recession gives clear answers to the following four questions:
- Which was hit harder by the Great Recession, the private or public sector?
The private sector lost more jobs, more quickly, than the public sector. However, the private sector has been slowly recovering for three years, whereas state and local job losses have continued. As of now, both private and public are off their pre-Recession peaks by close to the same amount.
- Which part of state and local government was least affected? Most affected?
State higher education has proved recession-proof. State government education jobs are up 4.5% since 2007. (Nationwide, higher education enrollment grew 15.4 percent between 2007 and 2011.) Cuts in state aid have been offset by fee hikes. By contrast, state government non-education is now 6.8% off its peak, the only public labor sector that even comes close to the private drop at its Recession-era worst.
But the biggest absolute drop occurred in local government (almost 550,000 jobs lost since August 2008 peak), since local governments employ more workers more than state governments.
- What was unprecedented about state and local jobs losses during the Great Recession?
Rockefeller researchers compared state and local job losses in the recent recession vs. four prior recessions (1973, 1980, 1990, 2001). They found that, this time around, the state and local job decline was deeper and longer-lasting.
- What about differences between states?
Red states dominate the list of states that added jobs since total US state and local employment peaked in August 2008. The top ten biggest job losers contain a mix of red and blue states.