Graph of the Day: Government Employment
In the years during and after the Great Recession, cutting government dominated Minnesota and the nation's public policy debate. There was a lot of belt-tightening and government bashing. Austerity became reality, budgets shrank, and states and local governments laid off workers.
Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data
As the graph above shows, state and local governments across the nation cut a net average of nearly 600,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012.* Minnesota did the same over that period, slashing a net average of about 8,000 state and local government employees—excluding the 2011 state government shutdown that temporarily put around 20,000 state workers out of a job (see the graph below). That means fewer teachers, police, firefighters, and snowplow drivers. In the meantime since 2008, Minnesota's population has risen by at least 125,000, according to U.S. Census estimates, forcing public service providers to do more with less.
This May, state and local payrolls bottomed out, hitting four-year lows. While conservatives want to blast the president for slow job growth, they fail to factor in their own budget cutting actions here and across the nation that lead to public layoffs dragging down two years of steady private-sector job growth.
We're now starting to see a slight uptick in public hiring again. Average June through August state and local employment was up about 5,000 jobs compared 2012's January to April average.
A spokesperson for Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development said the office is looking into reasons for increased state and local government hiring, but doesn't have a definitive answer. There's no word on if the trend will continue.
However, our state's public workforces are still far from adequately staffed to deliver the community services that will move Minnesota forward. Taking the average of Minnesota's latest three-month job spurt, we're still 6,000 jobs below our 2008 average, just before the bottom fell out of the economy.
Reading our state newspapers' business sections, we see Minnesota's top earners are recovering from the economic downturn. With the rest of the workforce still struggling, it's time to put fiscal fairness at the forefront of Minnesota's public policy debate so that all of Minnesota returns to pre-recession prosperity.
*All employment numbers are seasonally adjusted