Tuesday, September 6, 2011

August Jobs Figures

August DOL jobs figures showed no net gain, but part of that bad news was attributable to a strike at Verizon. Moreover, as I've mentioned before with respect to prior months' reports, it is important to remember that gains in the private sector--and we are still seeing some gains--are being offset by continued massive losses of public sector jobs. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that ever since the Republicans took over the House of Representatives and forced everybody to talk about austerity instead of talking about economic growth, jobs growth has slowed to a crawl. Since I try to keep the tone positive on this site, however, I'd rather talk about how to solve the problem than about whom to blame for it.

Somebody needs to explain to me how we are going to increase employment in this country if we keep laying off more and more public sector employees. Where in the world has anyone ever increased employment by reducing the number of people who are employed? It seems to me that unless you are ideologically committed to the notion that anyone who takes a paycheck from the government somehow does not qualify as doing work--which is pretty insulting to teachers and soldiers and police officers and even to politicians--you would have to admit that firing people does not reduce unemployment. As a matter of fact, the more people you fire, the more you increase unemployment.

If we want to increase employment, shouldn't we stop laying off public sector employees? Otherwise, we are just making our task harder, because we would not only have to figure out how to employ people who are already out of work, we also have to figure out how to employ all the people the government is laying off.

It would be unseemly for Congressional Republicans to blame the Obama administration for lackluster jobs growth while they are busy trying to make sure that the federal, state and local governments continue to fire more and more employees. They will no doubt continue to blame the administration for the problem they are exacerbating, however.


  1. This sums up the debate!


  2. Obama is doing a great job of destroying the economy. He can at least claim he's good at something.

  3. Tell that to the GM workers who were re-hired because Obama saved the auto industry. And tell it to all the people whose 401(k) accounts have bounced back after losing almost half their value in 2008. Meanwhile your plan is to fire more teachers and policemen and court clerks. And how that is supposed to help the economy nobody has been able to explain to me.

  4. Joe, here's some facts about the records Obama has set:


    Why do you assume that if the Government hadn't go on a hiring binge the private sector wouldn't have soaked up the excess applicants?

  5. I assume that because number one, the government did not go on a hiring binge, and number two, because unemployment is still at 9%. It is not like there is a shortage of people that the private sector could hire.

  6. Harrison, the government has laid off 500,000 employees in the past 3 years. Half a million jobs LOST in the public sector.


    These are facts. Wherever did you get the idea that there is some kind of government hiring binge? If you are talking about the stimulus bill, a big chunk of that was tax cuts, another chunk was aid to the states, without which they would have laid off even more government workers, and another chunk was spending in infrastructure, etc. which means government contracts to private employers. There was no hiring binge.

    The statistics that you are citing about government spending being a larger percentage of GDP than previously mostly arise from the recession itself. When GDP goes down, then the government becomes a larger percentage of the economy. That percentage will reduce when the private sector recovers. And at the same time, again due to the recession, a larger number of people become eligible for Food Stamps and unemployment insurance benefits. So that kind of government spending goes up. And most of those kinds of increases were in place at the time Obama took office.

    What you are suggesting is that in the face of the biggest recession since the 1930's, the government should have cut programs like Food Stamps and stopped paying unemployment insurance, etc. And then we could have enjoyed the bread lines and shantytowns that we had in the 1930's, but at least you would be happy that government spending did not increase.

  7. Joe, in your figures I'm sure you are including temporary census worker jobs which shouldn't be included.

    Regarding real numbers:

    The Obama administration says the government will grow to 2.15 million employees this year, topping 2 million for the first time since President Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and joined forces with a Republican-led Congress in the 1990s to pare back the federal work force.


  8. Temporary census workers are accounted for in Yglesias's chart, as you can see from the spike in his chart. But the overall trend is clear: the total number of government employees--federal, state, and local--has dropped by nearly half a million. The article you are citing only talks about federal employees. But since we are concerned about employment in the entire US economy, we shouldn't just isolate federal employees, should we? Of course we shouldn't.

    The fact is that have lost nearly half a million public sector jobs in the last three years, which of course is a reflection of the dire state of most state and local governments' budgets. And conservatives need to acknowledge that firing nearly half a million employees in the public sector has had a negative impact on employment overall. Instead, they advocate firing even more teachers and police officers and fire fighters and librarians and other state and local employees. And then they will blame Obama for continued high unemployment. When they should be taking the responsibility for high unemployment themselves.