Remember all the stories from a month or so ago about how job cuts from state and local government payrolls were killing America's past, present, and future? Those apocalyptic visions of unemployed teachers roaming the streets like the Baseball Furies from The Warriors? For god's sake, didn't we understand that a 1.3 percent cut in state jobs and a 2.8 percent cut local in government jobs since 2008 was the very reason that unemployment was over 8 percent rather than over 7 percent (never mind that either figure was well above what the Obama administration had promised when it passed its $800 billion stimulus)?
Well, cheer up, public sector America! Because it turns out that the sun is rising yet again. From USA Today:
States, cities, counties and school districts hired 828,000 workers in the first four months of the year, up 20% from a year earlier, and the most since 2008, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the government's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The number of job openings at state and local governments also hit a four-year high.
This lift in government hiring shows how state budget problems have eased in recent months as tax collections have improved. Total revenue is flat because extra federal aid is drying up. But tax money revenue generally is spent on workers, especially at the local level, while federal aid is often dedicated to outside vendors, such as health care providers in the Medicaid program and highway contractors….
Dennis Cauchon explains that state and local goverments currently employ about 19.6 million people, "down 3% from the peak" in 2008. He further notes that the private sector is starting to pick up too:
Private companies are hiring a little more, too, up 4% in the first four months of 2012 from a year earlier. That's a weak rebound when measured against hiring declines every year from 2006 to 2009, including a 20% hiring drop in 2009.
The hiring turnaround has been most dramatic, starting last August, in the nation's state and local governments. These 89,500 cities, park districts, sewer systems and other governments are a backbone of working-class America, employing millions of low-profile truck drivers, health care aides and motor vehicle clerks with decent pay, good benefits and exceptional job security.
As I noted in a June 22 piece, "Should We Hire Even More Teachers, Cops, and Firemen?," there's a real economic downside to state and local governments going on hiring and spending sprees.
Nick Gillespie is co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, now out in paperback with a new foreword. Follow him on Twitter.